Poster by Nemo Design

I was a bit skeptical heading into the Metro last night to see Tokyo Police Club. The show wasn’t sold out, so I didn’t think the room would be full. The band has toured consistently since forming in 2005 with a few breaks to record a couple of EP’s and their debut LP, so I thought they would run through the set and get out of town. Plus, they come with a lot of hype and hype usually ruins expectations, but I was trying to look past the fact that despite releasing their debut LP only a couple weeks ago, they are headlining the Metro. I came back to one question: How did I end up in the Metro with these guys from Canada? Well, at about 11PM, I submitted to the power of the internet, acknowledged my shortcomings as a jaded individual, and realized that Tokyo Police Club is a good band.

First, let me explain the build up. I have been hearing about TPC for a couple years now, taking in some videos and illegally downloaded EP’s. Aside from the single, “The Nature of the Experiment,” which is pretty catchy, I never saw them as anything other than another The Go! Team or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. I’ve seen those other two bands live before and you can tell they are stretched thin on ideas, relying on energy and quirk mainly. Some call them buzz bands, also-rans.

But, we at Live Music Blog know that a good live show can make a band. I mean, would we post a new Phish show every Friday if they were bad or even decent performers? I feel bad even writing that sentence as a hypothetical. The point is, whenever TPC started to rise up as a force in the indie rock scene, they must have decided that their live show would be their calling card because they pulled no punches last night and managed to seem genuinely grateful. They also had a lot of fun, which translated into some dancing on a Chicago venue floor. That is a task!

Poster by Jeremy Wilson

Let me get specific for you, though. They have a lighting set up that is a bit like a mini-U2 concert, or something you might see in a music video for Mariah Carey. Something like 7-10 slivers of LED lights are set up in a semi-circle behind the band that changed colors throughout the set. They also had lights that shined on the faces of the singer and guitarist like flashlights at a campfire. I though it was kind of lame when they were setting it all up, but when it came time for the songs to be performed, I didn’t mind it and it gave me something to look at when my mind wandered. Despite my distaste for inappropriate lighting, it signaled to me that all that money from the 30,000 copies sold of their EP is being reinvested into the experience for the fans. They get credit for that much. Plus, if they ever hit it big like Madonna or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, they won’t have to pull a Muse and put on the most unexpected (but great) light show ever.

My expectations as a jaded individual, previously acknowledged as shortcomings, were naked last night. TPC does two things very well. One, they write short songs that are very catchy for at least half the duration of the song. They never indulge and always keep it tight. Two, they interact well. The lead singer does the talking, which is limited and to the point: “Thanks;” “We’re glad to be back in Chicago;” “You guys are great;” “This is a new song.” And all of these things are done with enthusiasm, and enthusiasm that was met with equal force from the audience.

The Lovely Boys of TPC

The crowd knew most of the songs. They didn’t just know the words, they knew the hand claps that are never simple enough for drunk people (18+! Go, Metro!) and they needed no lessons from the band. I realize that people dig the familiar, but s***, did I mention their debut album came out only a couple weeks ago?! This is when I bowed down the power of the internet as a connecting device. I’ve worked with the medium for a while now, but when you see the product of all these people online in an old forum like a concert like that, you sit up and take notice. This is the same day when Google is trading at over $300 a share and Yahoo! just scoffed at Microsoft. The world has changed and I didn’t even get to know it! I guess I’ll never know a world of mailing lists and mixtapes or even an underground. Who cares when enough demographics were present to make an ad man’s head spin.

Finally, it made me entertain the notion of evaluation. What determines a band’s merit? We usually associate records as the benchmark with live shows as a way to get promotion, but with the market telling us that albums are worthless, the credo of LMB shines through! With The Beatles having what’s generally considered to be the best catalog, we usually give the title of Best Rock Band Ever to them. But if the whole game is about to be flipped upside down — or if it already has been — then we can finally give Radiohead, My Morning Jacket and Phish their rightful places among the stalwarts. But that, my dear, is for another day…a much warmer day.