While new songs fell flat, Tokyo Police Club‘s classic material is still captivating ten years later.
Instead of focusing on their 2016 EP, Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness: Part Two, which got mixed reviews, they celebrated the ten-year anniversary of their debut EP, A Lesson In Crime. The crowd at the Sinclair was full of people in first-run Lesson In Crime t-shirts, delighting in mid-00s nostalgia.
But no one was more nostalgic than Charly Bliss, a fitting opening act. As frontwoman Eva Hendricks explained, the band members first met at a Tokyo Police Club show as teenagers when they saw then-fifteen-year-old misfit, now lead guitarist, Spencer Fox, drinking vodka in the parking lot and thought he was “so cool.” The Brooklyn punk quartet quickly won over the audience with infectious energy and well-crafted songs. Between the unusual chord changes and angular guitar leads, the band was well suited for the city where bands like Speedy Ortiz and Pile cut their teeth.
Charly Bliss finished the set with a cacophony of guitar freakouts and feedback, working the audience into a frenzy that lasted through the set break and erupted again when Tokyo Police Club emerged. Tokyo Police Club have made a career out of their upbeat and peppy brand of indie rock, perhaps reaching their peak in the mid-00s. But their original dynamism was lacking, as they opened their set with “Not My Girl,” a song off of last year’s Infinite Radness EP that serves as a bland and failed attempt to recapture their older sound. This was followed by “My House,” another mid-tempo song, this one reminiscent of Weezer’s “Beverly Hills” but without the fun.
The crowd indulged the band while they played their newer material, politely head bobbing and occasionally singing along, but it seemed to be more of a courtesy. Even the band wasn’t all that engrossed in their new material – band members halfheartedly played through the songs without any facial or musical expression of joy or excitement. Guitarist Josh Hook spent most of the night standing in one place examining his feet, a disappointment for any fan lucky enough to have witnessed (or seen on YouTube) the band’s first festival appearances, with gigantic stages, running around, and profusely sweating. What happened to the Tokyo Police Club that used to have fun?
It wasn’t until the band played old favorites that visible emotion appeared, from the crowd or the band. Keyboardist Graham Wright finally came to life while singing the anthemic hook on “Breakneck Speed,” and on “Tessellate,” drummer Greg Alsop finally showed off his signature frantic and spirited drumming.
As the rhythm section perked up, the night began to feel more like the Tokyo Police Club of old. Despite the tepid opening, the set slowly built in intensity culminating in a full performance of A Lesson In Crime. As frontman David Monks said, even though the band wrote the songs in high school, they were still excited to play the EP live in its entirety.
All the audience needed was the explosive drum intro to “Cheer It On” to finally get the audience engaged. The band finally seemed both comfortable and enthusiastic on stage, their energy matched by the audience. Josh Hook started smiling for the first time all night. Greg Alsop started having fun behind the drum kit. Graham Wright started stomping around the stage like he used to. The performances of the old classics were just as good as the original record, with a particular standout performance of “Be Good,” which had more drive and gravity live than on the recording. Even the mellow songs off of Lesson, such as “Le Ferrassie,” had more vitality and liveliness than even the most rambunctious new songs from earlier in the set. Maybe Tokyo Police Club is already tired of playing their new material after two tours, or maybe the songs from Lesson are truly special, holding up so well ten years later. Hopefully the best songs in Tokyo Police Club’s career aren’t already behind them, but in case they are, at least the 20th anniversary of A Lesson In Crime will be something to look forward to.