Andrew W.K. Phoenix Theatre, Toronto ON March 27
Published Mar 28, 2012When Andrew W.K. first appeared on the scene, it was hard to take him seriously; his party-hard attitude felt like either an ill-advised major-label bid to either cash in on the "rock is back!" declarations being heralded in the wake of the Strokes and the Hives, or serve as some sort of limp nü-metal holdover.
But W.K. was neither of those things. Like an incredibly earnest Mike Patton, he was a multimedia concept about living life to its fullest who started in the New York noise underground and has since flourished into a career as a motivational speaker and television host, amongst many other things.
Which is why, despite being remembered by most for one song, he's able to pack theatres for the tenth anniversary of his debut solo record I Get Wet. And while a decade of "partying" has slowed him down some -- there were noticeably less leg kicks than in the past -- time hasn't ravaged his enthusiastic stage presence, which quickly translated to the eager crowd.
With a giant cutout of the album's infamous blood-splattered cover hanging from behind, the band -- which included four guitarists -- took the stage alongside Cherie Lily, W.K.'s wife and hype-woman/back-up partier, before the singer emerged, clad in his trademark white pants and stained white tee. The eight musicians launched into "It's Time to Party," whose four-on-the-floor rhythm and breakneck pace set the tone for the evening.
They worked through I Get Wet in its original running order. But long pauses between songs slowed the show's momentum. W.K. did his best to keep the crowd's enthusiasm up, showing off his classically trained piano skills on a keyboard. But when the band got going, they were on fire; he and Lily achieved simultaneously synchronized head bangs and fist pumps, their longhair visibly flicking water and sweat into the air while the crowd sang along to every word.
"Don't Stop Living in the Red" ended the first half of the evening, and the octet left the stage for a couple minutes then returned to deliver some choice tracks of his unfairly ignored albums The Wolf and Close Calls with Brick Walls. W.K. also tossed in two brand new tracks, including one called "Headbang" where he instructed the crowd to do just that (the exhausted mosh pit responded in kind) before leaving the stage again only to return for AW.K.GOJ's "We Want Fun."
Andrew W.K. might be a bit of a one-trick pony -- most of the night's songs were somewhat indistinguishable from one another due to some muddy sound -- but the aplomb and enthusiasm with which it's delivered has carried him for a decade. It's hard to imagine him not repeating the feat again.
To see Exclaim!'s Andrew W.K. photo gallery, courtesy of Fil ZuZarte, head here.