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Live Review: Japandroids, WAAX

18 July 2017 | 11:32 am | Steve Bell

"The pair keep powering through in an unrelenting squall of pace and passion."

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Judging by the strong crowd reaction it seems rising local five-piece WAAX have really struck a chord with their new EP Wild & Weak, the band - and dervish frontwoman Marie DeVita in particular - receiving a far stronger reception than what's often afforded the opening band on a cold Sunday evening in Brisbane. And this crowd rapport makes complete sense given the unabashed strength of newer tracks such as Same Same — and the closing title track in the live setting — the tunes raw and powerful, and delivered with complete confidence and enthusiasm by the entire outfit.

Soon the stage is cleared away except for a full drum kit on the right facing the lone microphone at the centre of the stage, behind which a massive triple-stack of amps has been assembled: even if you hit this gig having never heard of Canadian duo Japandroids, you'd know just from spying this set-up alone that tonight's set is going to be heavy on volume. And the pair sure don't disappoint, frontman Brian King and his drumming cohort David Prowse taking their positions and blasting into Near To The Wild Heart Of Life - the title track from their recent third album - which immediately sounds heavier and rawer in the live setting. As they continue with Fire's Highway (from much-loved 2012 album Celebration Rock) the pair's trademark anthemic counterpoint vocals are on full display, Prowse throwing in bountiful "woah!" and "oh!" singalongs that add numerous hooks to the already abundantly catchy songs.

King brings a manic intensity to everything he touches, even relatively sedate (by Japandroids standards) tracks like Heart Sweats and new track True Love And A Life Of Free Will, the singer already tousled and sweaty after only a handful of numbers. The crowd go wild as Japandroids introduce jubilant standard Wet Hair, the sound remaining raw and vital as they thunder through North East South West and Younger Us, before Prowse takes over lead vocals on Midnight To Morning. The beat of new track Arc Of Bar has an almost dance groove, before Prowse offers a massive drum intro to The Nights Of Wine And Roses and restores order to the primal and visceral realms.

The crowd up front are getting gradually rowdier and all over the venue fans are singing along passionately to songs that obviously resonate strongly, and even though the new album (every song of which makes an appearance tonight over the course of the set) isn't as messy and hedonistic in tone as its predecessors, numbers like I'm Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner) and In A Body Like A Grave still garner a strong reaction. On stage, the pair keep powering through in an unrelenting squall of pace and passion, Continuous Thunder and No Known Drink Or Drug leading into an absolutely frantic take on old chestnut Young Hearts Spark Fire that tips the crowd over the edge into an ecstatic frenzy. Despite seeming to teeter on the edge of exhaustion, the pair dig deep for one last effort, hammering home The House That Heaven Built. It devolves into one final gut-bursting refrain of, "Tell 'em all to go to hell!", a completely fitting climax to this most uncompromising rock'n'roll performance.

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