"That wasn't perfect but there was a lot of spirit in it."
Brunswick's Press Club have been one of the more buzzed-about Melbourne bands in recent months and it's easy to see why. Singer Natalie Foster is a compelling performer with a powerful voice. She stalks the stage, shaking her long mane of hair. Foster doesn't fit easily into any girl-in-a-punk-band archetypes. The band's decisive, dynamic songs have roots in 1980s underground indie-rock, but Foster's lyrics proffer a thoroughly modern perspective during highlights such as Headwreck. It's thrilling to watch Press Club figure out what they're capable of.
Next up: hey, it's the guys from all those Japandroids album covers! Just to witness the pair take their respective places on stage is exciting, knowing they've done so close to a thousand times over the past decade. Guitarist/singer Brian King somehow already looks incredibly sweaty despite not having played a single note. They kick things off with Near To The Wild Heart Of Life. With its rousing "…got me all fired up" chorus, the song does exactly what it says on the tin. Fire's Highway is up next, another song that combines the words "heart" and "fire" to similarly stirring effect.
This is clearly the way Japandroids songs are meant to be heard: with a writhing crowd shouting backing "woah-oh-oh"s. After the so-so reception that greeted their latest album, the duo seems to have something to prove again, which is rarely a bad thing for a rock band. Plus, clunky or platitudinous lyrics are more easily forgiven — embraced, even, in this setting.
Younger Us incites crowd-surfing as King maniacally whips his floppy fringe back and forth, showering the front row with sweat. King dances in appreciation of drummer David Prowse's thundering, tom-heavy intro to Heart Sweats. Prowse sings lead vocals on Midnight To Morning, which culminates in a cool call-and-response section.
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The show loses some momentum with the arrival of the hulking Arc Of Bar. The song, which already drags in its recorded incarnation, is epically overstretched in this live version that's plagued by technical difficulties tonight. However, the duo wrestle things back on track with the mighty The Nights Of Wine And Roses and classically anthemic North East South West.
"We have one more song. You know what it is," Prowse says before launching into what will forever be Japandroids' signature song. This is, after all, The House That Heaven Built. King succinctly summarises his band's entire existence when, after yet another burst of fun, life-affirming celebration rock, he says, "That wasn't perfect but there was a lot of spirit in it".