By Jim Easterhouse

For being a duo from Vancouver, Japandroids showcased a seasoned sense of Chicago throughout their Wednesday night set at the Vic Theatre. Sprinkled in between a 17-song set list spanning across their three albums, lead singer and guitarist Brian King reminded attendees of the significance of performing in Chicago again.

From referencing sets Japandroids played at Schubas years ago to prefacing playing “The House That Heaven Built” with “we’re going to play it the best we have in Chicago,” it was clearly notable to the duo to be back in the Windy City.

Over two months before Japandroids performed on February 15th and before the release of their third album, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, Jason Thomas talked to Brian King about touring, their upcoming record, and eventually returning to Chicago to play a 93XRT Show. Even on December 1st, King had high hopes for the Wednesday night set.

“Yeah it’s going to be awesome. Chicago has always been a great city for us. We have great fans there,” King said to Thomas. “If I’m not mistaken, this is going to be our biggest Chicago show yet.”

Whether the sold out show  at the Vic surpassed past Japandroids audiences at Pitchfork Music Festival, Schubas, or any other Chicago venue, the band delivered an electricity on Wednesday night that felt much larger than the room we inhabited. Drummer David Prowse created a pulse for the audience with his drum kit, pacing everyone alongside King’s extensive guitar riffs while vocally contributing to choruses as well.

Japandroids established that pace instantly, starting off their set with the title track “Near to the Wild Heart of Life,” “Fire’s Highway,” and the anthemic “North East South West.” Seemingly alternating between tracks off of their new album and of the previously released Celebration Rock and Post-Nothing, the band  delivered an introspective take at their new record before performing “In A Body Like A Grave.”

The last track on Near to the Wild Heart of Life, the band admitted that “In A Body Like A Grave” captured the essence of the album, and that they’d ultimately like to use the tune to close out sets. That perspective, along with the tandem of “Midnight to Morning” and “No Known Drink  or Drug,” was among the highlights of an entirely enlivening set by Japandroids. Given this performance and the handful of years between the band’s most recent album releases, here’s to hoping Japandroids will return to the Chicago music festival circuit this summer with another chance for fans to experience their outstanding live sets.


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