No Valentine’s Day Date? No Problem. Japandroids was Minneapolis’ Valentine last night at their nearly sold-out show in the First Avenue Mainroom. Japandroids just kicked off their massive tour in Madison on Monday, in support of their first album in almost four years. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that was definitely the case at Japandroids’ Minneapolis show last night. It was hard to tell who was more excited for the highly anticipated return to First Ave – Brian King and David Prowse of the Japandroids or the fans. As any packed show at First Ave, there was a contagious energy in the air last night (or maybe it was booze and serotonin). And if taking some time off garners what we saw in the mainroom last night, then I would recommend every band does just that. Japandroids were back with unmatched fervency last night and despite being dateless, there was no place I would have rather spent my Valentine’s Day.
Kicking off the evening was the beloved Craig Finn, with his most current project – Craig Finn and The Uptown Controllers. Craig Finn, of course best known for his project The Hold Steady, is arguably one of the most beloved musicians to hail from the Twin Cities. Finn, though currently residing in New York, grew up in Edina, and is one of those musicians that really has become a hometown hero for many. As always, Finn played through their roughly 40-minute set with a style all his own. Known for his distinct vocals and mannerisms on stage, it’s always a treat in watch Craig Finn play Minneapolis.
Watching Finn play through songs both new and old, I was struck by two things. First, the wisdom that Finn seems to possess both a musician, and just as a person. Lyrically, Craig Finn and The Uptowns Controllers new songs lack no depth. Finn uniquely tells stories through his songs, that resonate on many levels. “We all want the same thing, but we just disagree on how to get there. Right now, I think what we all want is truth,” Finn said ahead of their new track Be Honest. He didn’t need to name names, or mention circumstances, but everyone in First Ave knew what he was referring to. There is wisdom in the understated. And secondly, I was reminded of the truth that some things just get better with age. Finn has been playing in bands for over two decades now, and he just keeps getting better. It’s fun to see new bands come up and grow and develop, but there is something refreshing about watching a musician who is so comfortable and confident in himself and his craft. The result is a polished performance from top to bottom, an ability to address current events with tact and humor, and to simply put on a hell of a good show.
“We’ll be back, we love you guys so much,” Finn said to close out the set, and we will hold him to that.
Setlist: Apollo / Maggie / Preludes / Be Honest / Tracking / New Myers / Terrified / Trapper
Japandroids set, just over an hour, featured plenty of their classics that first catapulted them into popularity almost a decade ago, as well as plenty songs off their new album Near To The Wild Heart of Life. The songs off the new album are both a departure from their previous work, but at the same time remain true to the no-frills-no-nonsense-no-gimmicks identity that the Japandroids have cultivated as a band over the years. They seem to have grown up, found love and happiness and moved past their salad days. Their lyrics and live performance reflect that. They rocked hard as ever, and lyrically explored new depths we haven’t really seen from the Japandroids before, which made for a cathartic evening of great music.
Watching the Japandroids alone and single on Valentine’s Day had the potential to throw me into both a deprecatory black hole, but listening to their lyrics last night actually left me feeling both content with my current relational status and optimistic for the future. They are guys who have penned songs about not being able to resist a girl with wet hair and going to France to french kiss girls (Wet Hair). Now they’ve crafted lyrics on their new album about a deep, real, honest, vulnerable, raw love that makes everything else feel like bush league. “And no known drink, no known drug, could ever hold a candle to your love,” they sang last night. And maybe it was the hyper-awareness of my singleness which is heightened every February 14th, but as the Japandroids played through songs off their new album last night, I couldn’t help but want that but also feel perfectly happy to be where I was. I’m ok with cheap drinks and good music, but still one day hope to find something that makes the buzz from vodka sodas feel like nothing. So if the Japandroids can graduate from chasing hot girls with wet hair, then maybe so will some of the duds I’ve seemed to date.
“From every day at dawn, through to the dead of night. I’m sorry for not finding you sooner, I’ve been looking for you my whole life,” King and Prowse sing on I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner). So if I have to spend a few more Valentine’s Day alone, swipe through a few more guys on Tinder who will just end up ghosting me, and drink a little more cheap wine than I probably should, but at the end of it all find a love like what Japandroids sang about last night, then count me in.
Set list: Near To The Wild Heart of Life / North East South West / Wet Hair / True Love and a Free Life of Free Will / Adrenaline Nightshift/ Arc of Bar / The Nights of Wine and Roses / Continuous Thunder / Midnight to Morning / No Known Drink or Drug / Younger Us / I Quit Girls / Young Hearts Spark Fire / Sovereignty / In a Body Like a Grave / The House That Heaven Built / (I’m) Stranded (The Saints cover) (with Craig Finn)