Tokyo Police Club – The Bowery Ballroom – June 10, 2012
The indie-rock universe has taken on an especially mercurial quality when the guys in Tokyo Police Club, the veritable old guard, find themselves headlining a sold-out Bowery Ballroom show just one night before warming up for Foster the People in Central Park. But this was the landscape outside, the fickle cultural one—the very same one that in 2006 elevated TPC from obscure basement band to playing Mercury Lounge to signing with Saddle Creek and beyond. Inside, the band was back playing a New York City rock club, a bit of nostalgia for a well-established group that in some respects had transcended spaces like this one.
As their new record steadily creeps toward the finish line, this was Tokyo Police Club’s first show “in a long time,” according to singer Graham Wright. So, suitably, they opened with something new. The song, one of the few the audience knew none of the words to, featured the signature lyric “Don’t look back,” a winking self-admonishment from a band ripping between its past and its future. Diving to 2006, they followed with “Nature of the Experiment,” the type of song that makes you remember where you were when you first heard it. The set oscillated among old, recent and new, featuring “Favorite Colour,” “Tessellate” and a new song with the words “I want to travel to the future” lodged prominently in its chorus.
The band finished the set with the twosome of “Breakneck Speed,” one of the best songs of 2010, and “Wait Up (Boots of Danger),” the first bringing the house to its fullest voice on the lyric “It’s good to be back, good to be back” before an explosion of high-fret guitar and keyboard. It was, perhaps, this tension between returning and moving forward, the old becoming new and the new becoming familiar, that stuck the set together, a sort of past and future tense architecture. And so it was no joke when the band encored with a cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and then closed with their second-ever single, “Cheer It On.” Only a few people knew the words then but everyone knew them now, bringing the evening both back and full circle. —Geoff Nelson