It happens. Sometimes thrilling performers fail to sound their best on high-profile stages. Take Frank Ocean’s lackluster Grammy performance, which he totally nailed in rehearsals. And whatever you think of Lana Del Rey, Saturday Night Live has a venerable tradition of beloved musical acts coming off like garage bands. Part of Japandroids’ appeal, of course, is the fist-pumping, emotive Canadian duo brings the scrappy intensity of an actual garage band, albeit one that’s imagining it’s playing arenas. Last night SPIN’s 2012 Band of the Year descended upon Conan, fireworks-blasting Celebration Rock opener “The Night of Wine and Roses” lacked its usual “yell like hell to the heavens” oomph. Drummer David Prowse howled and pummeled like normal, but guitarist Brian King’s lead vocal sounded a bit tentative, as if months of touring might finally be taking their unfortunate toll.
Japandroids have another big year ahead of them in 2013, with gigs at Metallica’s Orion Music + More Festival, New York City’s Governors Ball, and Bonnaroo, plus a chance to defeat Nickelback with an ice hockey anthem all their own. So let’s hope this was just a so-so night caused by a lingering curse from Jay Leno or something. We bet the rehearsal was righteously awesome.