The canned walk-on music for Japandroids was a Bob Seger hit, about awkward teenage blues, the sound of thunder and autumn closing in. The audience for the hard-hooking Vancouver guitar-and-drums duo was young – it was an all-ages show; stage-diving was the joyous sport for some. The music was simple, loud, exclamatory and, if you could make out the words, ruggedly poetic. Japandroids calls it celebration rock. I agree.
Seger's song was Night Moves, and, yes, singer-guitarist Brian King was a "little too tall, could've used a few pounds." But the night wasn't really about him. He gave the teen divers a strict 10-second time limit onstage, because "I don't share the spotlight with no one." He did though, share, because Japandroids was only half the performance. The electric room was the show.
Japandroids' latest album Celebration Rock is making many of the prized best-of-2012 lists. Its debut studio LP, 2009's Post-Nothing, received similar acclaim. At the sold-out Phoenix theatre, the music it threw out into the air was more rock than roll, Nirvana-punked and Springsteen-furious, with its edges softened by a screen of overdriven guitar. Oldies might prefer some groove, but Japandroids isn't in the game for another generation's concern.
Continuous Thunder was a steady, two-chord fuzz-drone over a marching, tumbling back beat, about not having all the answers and not being perfect, but blazing away anyway, "singing out loud, like continuous thunder." There was a lot of that.
Things had begun with Adrenaline Nightshift, a charged up rocker with lines about blitzkrieg love, a roman-candle kiss and the wait for a "generation's bonfire to begin." The night ended with the demon-amphetamine blues of For the Love of Ivy.
Within his own anthem from 1976, Seger had mused about a hummable song from 1962. Now in 2012, Japandroids yowls about the plundering of poets and the storm of a punk's guitar. Autumn is always closing in, every year, too fast, for every class. Ain't it funny how the night still moves.
Japandroids play Winnipeg's Pyramid, Dec. 17; Saskatoon's Louis' Pub, Dec. 18; Calgary's Republick, Dec. 20; Vancouver's Rickshaw Theatre, Dec. 22.