The War on Drugs live in London
- By Nik Jeffries -
- Mar 01, 2012
Tonight was The War on Drugs’ biggest ever London show and the expectation was palatable to say the very least. Playing off last year’s majestic masterpiece ‘Slave Ambient’ which was recorded after Kurt Vile left the lineup.
Their current UK tour sees them hit the road in support of the album’s third single ‘Brothers’. Physically overwhelmed by the sell-out crowd, frontman Adam Granduciel made reference to the last time they played the tiny Old Blue Last pub in Shoreditch, joking that some guy outside asked if they "liked to party?" and if they wanted to buy ecstasy or weed, the irony clearly not lost given their namesake...
The band strode onto the stage to the strains of Krautrock super-group Harmonia and launched into ‘Buenos Aires Beach’ from debut album ‘Wagonwheel Blues’. Instantly it made perfect sense and was a fitting juxtaposition given their stylistic fusion of Neu! inspired rhythms with melodic Bruce Springsteen esque heartland rock. They followed with a raucously anthemic ‘Baby Missiles’, a song reminiscent of the Arcade Fire at their best, before breaking into a Neil Young & Crazy Horse esque jam of feedback and noise.
The largest cheer of the night came for the rousing ‘I Was There’ before Motorik monster ‘Your Love is Calling my Name’ provided a high tempo antithesis ending in a haze of spacey reverb peppered with harmonica solos. ‘Best Night’ followed with Granduciel somehow managing to sound both like Bob Dylan and Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce. It’s a bittersweet song of true catharsis and to their testament the band know live when to either go hell for leather or stay restrained and allow the drones of echo to resonate the songs off into a blissful and kaleidoscopic euphoria. They even solicited help from an audience member to play rhythm guitar on ‘Brothers’.
For the encore they launched into ‘It’s Your Destiny’ before letting the feedback encapsulate them, riding crashing waves of melodic dissonance. Considering they’re only on their second album they played an astonishingly long and epic set and like ‘Slave Ambient’ it was an exercise of flawless execution. Both understated and uplifting, both intimate and anthemic - tonight proved that The War on Drugs are true pioneers
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