SAN FRANCISCO — An Andrew W.K. concert is very much a hard rock show. The giant wall of amps at the back of the stage turned up loud enough that you can feel the bass line through the soles of your shoes is a pretty big reminder of that. But it’s a hard rock show with the soul of a church revival meeting.
“It’s like the ball drop on New Year’s Eve,” Andrew W.K. said before the traditional countdown from 99 to the show’s finale, his biggest hit, “Party Hard.” “But it’s New Life’s Eve. You’re reborn as your new, partier self.”
It could come across as a little cheesy if he wasn’t so obviously sincere and if the crowd wasn’t so completely on board. The mosh pit never stopped. A significant portion of the crowd sang along to every word, even the few deep cuts. The call for an encore quickly turned into a chant of, “Party! Party! Party!”
Where the show differed from both a revival and a normal hard rock concert is the total lack of pretentiousness. Everyone on stage—three guitarists, a bass player, a drummer, and Andrew W.K. himself on vocals and keyboard—seemed to legitimately be having a great time through the entire set. The banter, when not inspirational, also highlighted the lack of seriousness. “Take It Off” was introduced with, “This is a song off our first album and it’s about partying!” Which, of course, describes every song off that album—and every other album.
“Now is the time in the party when I play the guitar shaped like a taco,” Andrew W.K. said. And he did just that. He played a solo on a guitar shaped like a taco. Then he said, “Okey dokey,” and went on to the next song.
In the context of everything else happening it was a perfectly sensible, reasonable series of events.
Even the setlist seemed selfless. While the tour is obviously to promote his recent album You’re Not Alone and make money—the man’s gotta eat, after all—there was no sales pitch. While some shows can feel like an informercial, if you were introduced to his work at that show you’d probably never know he was promoting new material. It was refreshing.
The set included six songs off his first album, 2001’s I Get Wet, and just three from is new one, as well as a couple each from sophomore album, The Wolf, and the relatively obscure Close Calls With Brick Walls.
Opener King Dream was a bit of a contrast from the floor-shaking, hard-rocking headliner. Oakland singer-songwriter Jeremy Lyons, formerly of the Tumbleweed Wanderers, was alone on stage with a guitar and harmonica. He wasn’t the most obvious choice to set the stage for the King of Partying.
“I just got this gig yesterday,” he told the early arrivals. “It’s the best last-minute gig I’ve ever gotten. I’ll try my best to party hard.”
Genre mismatch aside, he was pretty good. The songs, while comparatively mellow, were well-written with solid lyrics. His vocal range was diverse, and when he switched to an electric guitar halfway in, he showed some skills on a solo or two.
King Dream won the audience over fairly quickly. It’s a credit to him, but it’s also a testament to Andrew W.K.’s fans buying into his message of positivity. Sure, they might spend their time in the mosh pit crushing each other, but they’ll also support a guy with a guitar from an Americana band.