The War on Drugs Impress Both Live and with New Album – CONCERT REVIEW



Considering that we recently had  Coachella, record store day and Easter all occur, I thought I’d publish my review on The War on Drugs show from Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom from a couple weeks back. 

After all, these things all relate to the show in the fact that The War on Drugs are one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen (Coachella), their new album (Record Store Day) supported by this tour is incredible and this is the most psychedelic yet “traditional” band (Easter Holiday) that you’ll probably hear in your lifetime.

If you’ve never listened to The War on Drugs they are a band that I cannot recommend highly enough. For starters, they will restore your belief that Rock and Roll isn’t dead in this country. In fact at their root they are an Americana band in the tradition of The Byrds, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty combined with the most unlikely of genres: Shoegaze.

The reason that they are the most unlikeliest of combos is that band mastermind Adam Granduciel’s voice is very distinct/ I would even call it Dylan-esque, because his words and delivery don’t blend within the wall of sound in the traditional way. His lyrics more augment and make the musicianship even more beautiful, which puts to rest the theory Dylan was a horrible singer.

This was extremely evident during the band’swodonstage rendition on “Under the Pressure” the opening track from their newest album Lost in the Dream. It is a ballad that is hazy, yet evocative. The guitar is at both times indulgent but necessary, especially live. It is a track that is part The Byrd’s “So You Want to be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and part Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”

Another highlight of the show was “Red Eyes” the first single off their latest album, is a slice of New Wavy, longhair brilliance, marked with synth sheen, crisp guitarwork, and echoing vocals.” 

The shoegaze sound I eluded too was strongly expressed with “Best Night,” a song off of their second album Slave Ambient. It is a track which conjures up images of a man drowning in the most incandescent of waters and beautiful of sunsets. A sentiment perfectly represented by the album’s cover art: 

“I believe that i’ve been cursed
been drowned and reimbursed
Got the feeling I can’t move without sliding
I’m a thousand miles behind, with a million more to climb
So it’s you I hope survives without fighting” 

The guitar on “Best Night” is so atmospheric for its own sake that it brings to mind The Verve’s A Storm in Heaven one of the most gorgeous and lush albums of the 90s. They finished off the evening with “Black Water Falls” also off of Slave Ambient a ballad that demonstrates that Granduciel’s as much a poet as he is a musician:

“While you want to remain my friend,
No it’s not — it’s not quite the same.
Remember me when you dissolve in the rain,
When the rivers run dry through the cold mountain range”

They did play some stuff off their debut Wagonwheel Blues, the most grass roots of their albums. “Buenos Aries Beach” was great live and is a folk song in the tradition of Simon and Garfunkel. Notwithstanding, how good Wagonwheel Blues is in its own right, this new album is absolutely masterful. 

Clint Corey, Arizona USA  (Follow Clint via twitter @clintcorey) 

Track listing

  1. “Under the Pressure” – 8:51WonD
  2. “Red Eyes” – 4:58
  3. “Suffering” – 6:00
  4. “An Ocean in Between the Waves” – 7:11
  5. “Disappearing” – 6:49
  6. “Eyes to the Wind” – 5:55
  7. “The Haunting Idle” – 3:08
  8. “Burning” – 5:46
  9. “Lost in the Dream” – 4:08
  10. “In Reverse” – 7:41

Concert Setlist

  1. Under the PressureWar On Drugs A2.indd
  2. Baby Missiles
  3. I Was There
  4. An Ocean In Between The Waves
  5. Disappearing
  6. Eyes to the Wind
  7. Red Eyes
  8. Suffering
  9. Best Night
  10. Comin’ Through
  11. Burning
  12. I Hear You Calling
  13. Lost In The Dream
  14. The Animator
  15. Come to the City
  16. In Reverse


  1. Brothers
  2. Black Water Falls

Related Links

Here are some live videos from a current tour.

Posted by Larry Carta

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