Noisy, melodic upstarts Tokyo Police Club are currently blazing a trail across Europe and this is their first gig of the tour to fall on a weekend night rather than a school night. Judging by David Monks’ joy/surprise at this fact, they’re probably (by the slightest of margins) not the draw that the packed Whelans suggests they are – let us not lose sight of the fact that Irish gig-goers habitually pay through the nose and wade through rivers of shite just to catch a glimpse of a decent band.
Anyway, as tenuous a rationale regarding Tokyo Police Club’s gig scheduling as this may be, it’s still a strange announcement considering the touring that TPC have done since signing for Paper Bag. Young, they might be, but they are clearly and undeniably seasoned at this playing live business.
So if this weeknight vs. weekend thing actually matters, and it doesn’t, they’re a punchy and energetic band with enough charm to fix that in time. And songs, too. They certainly have those. They have an eclectic catalogue of tunes that similarly and simultaneously suggests a youthful hodgepodge of style and form and a grasp on writing generally found in veterans… that good-old classic postmodernism. It’s easy to overlook the fact that the band have released four albums and two EPs since 2008 but listening back to the span of years via their prolific output, as they seduce the punters to do tonight in Whelans, the alterations in form are purely and intentionally aesthetic and all the better for it.
Now, preamble over, we get down to brass tacks. Sometimes guitar, keys, bass and drums can be just fucking majestic in the right hands. That said, vocal delivery is always going to have the final say in matters and nine times out of ten effectively underpins or hamstrings the entire package. David Monks will probably agree that he wasn’t blessed with the voice of a god in the first place, and as such the delivery is either on point or it limps off the stage like an abused dog dampening the sound that comes behind it. Naturally Monks’ performance was a hell of a lot better than that but the point is that the energy in a performance is sometimes an imperative element rather than a luxury.
Where Monks’ vocals positively bristle and fizz on record, they just don’t do anything like that for the majority of this performance. He sings with a smile, which is nice. But when the music is so full of potential energy, sometimes it’s ok to want the words sneered and spat at you. Or maybe it’s not. Clearly, on the strength of tonight’s performance, Monks thinks it’s the latter.
‘Argentina parts i, ii and iii” should have been a better start to the gig but was beset by front-of-house technical problems. No matter. The band has found their feet and pull no punches from this point onwards. Yet, unfortunately, the vocals only come close to matching the music during ‘Favourite Colour’ and ‘Wait Up (Boots of Danger)’. ‘Hot Tonight’ is every bit as catchy as the recorded version and deserves mention but, as is the case with the majority of the set, doesn’t exactly raise the roof.
This wasn’t a bad gig by any stretch, and as far as “kind-of-homecomings” go it was fairly successful. But just listen to the studio version of ‘Cheer It On’ and specifically the raw, youthful energy in the nearly-screamed “TOKYO POLICE CLUB” line. Now imagine it being crooned at you through a breathy smile. That’s what happened tonight.
Photo by Derek Kennedy.