Japandroids make their grand return for a two night run at Union Transfer

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Japandroids | photo by Tyler Asay for WXPN

It’s been quite a while, but the mighty Japandroids are back. 5 years after their last show at Union Transfer and the release of the glorious Celebration Rock in 2012, the band returned for a two night run in the same room, the first of which was sold out. According to vocalist/guitarist Brian King, their first UT show was the first night of the whole tour to sell out after it was announced. Our brotherly love towards the band showed, and in return they brought their all to show appreciation.

The night was opened by Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn, who is on tour to promote his new record, We All Want The Same Things, out in April. He and his band, the Uptown Comptrollers, shuffled through a brief and energetic set comprised of songs from his last two solo records mixed with new cuts as well. Faith In The Future rockers like “Maggie, I’ve Been Searching For Our Son” and “Newmyer’s Roof” mixed well with the more nuanced “Preludes” and “Be Honest,” showcasing the songwriter’s classic storytelling and signature “audience pointing” alike.

Craig Finn | photo by Tyler Asay for WXPN

Finn made a point to discuss with the audience that, as a country, “We’re feeling divided,” but that his new record’s title speaks some truth. While we all do want the same things, it’s more important than ever that we treat each other with respect and kindness. He thanked the audience for sharing the live experience with him, saying that “in the days where anyone can watch a concert at home, it’s really special that we can all be in the same room together.”

Japandroids took the stage a little after 10, to nothing but white lights over darkness, similar to the album covers that have become their trademark over their almost 10 year run. After a building drum roll from David Prowse, they burst into the title track from their new record, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life. Almost instantly, the crowd ignited, singing along every word to a song that has only been out for a couple months. “I used to be good, but now I’m bad” echoed through the halls of the converted train station as the band plunged through a powerful rendition of an already powerful song.

King and Prowse were not eager to stop, instantly following up with a double-kick of Celebration Rock tracks, “Adrenaline Nightshift” and “Fire’s Highway,” unearthing fire and brimstone over raw emotion and destructive performances. They are one of the loudest bands out there, especially when its only two guys up there making all the noise. With Japandroids, what you see is what you get.

Japandroids | photo by Tyler Asay for WXPN

Reviews from Near To The Wild Heart Of Life painted the record being “more of the same” and “not as alive as Celebration Rock.” But Japandroids’ real goal with making a record such as this one, was to create the perfect live set. New songs, such as the triumphant “North East South West” and “Midnight To Morning” (which featured a lead vocal from Prowse), kill live. They intertwine with the band’s older material and balance it out. “Arc Of Bar,” the seven and a half minute vamp, came right in the middle of the set and split it in two; it was like the band was burning out of the past and rushing straight into the future.

Throughout the band’s set, there were several chants from the crowd of “Let’s Go Flyers,” obviously intended to get a chuckle out of the likely Canucks fans (Japandroids hail from Vancouver). With a smile on his face, King dedicated “Wet Hair” to everyone in the crowd who wasn’t chanting. The audience must have taken notice, and eventually switched gears to “This Is Awesome!” With songs like the rousing “Continuous Thunder” and early hit “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” the band made a 70 degree night in February even warmer. It was braving the elements in the best way.

Japandroids | photo by Tyler Asay for WXPN

Before the night was over, the band invited Craig Finn back onstage to help them with a cover of The Saints’ “Stranded.” They all gave one more big thanks to Philadelphia, the first city of their tour to sell out. While I couldn’t make the second show last night, I’m sure it was just as bombastic and off the wall as night one. Japandroids do not seem like a band that give anything less than 100 percent. They take their necessary time, whether it be five years or longer, and then they rush full force into the wild heart of life. 

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