One word that I’d use to describe War on Drugs live (and probably their music on a whole) is reverb. Glancing around at the crowd, the majority of people were smiling, cradling their drinks and as soon as the band members strutted out on stage the atmosphere was infectious and the clapping and whistling began.
The six members and their instruments merged in and out of each other seamlessly, and the whiney (in a nice way) vocals resonated throughout the whole venue all night long. On the subject of venue, I found the O2 Guildhall to be kind of weird, it gave off the vibe of a massive church hall, albeit in a cosy and cute way. There was carpet down which was slightly odd, but wasn’t detrimental to my evening or the music on a whole. And on a nice note frontman Adam Granduciel even commented that it was one of the prettiest venues that they had had the pleasure of playing in on their UK tour so far.
I am used to going to gigs where you’re pushed and shoved, squashed and generally not very comfortable, but War on Drugs was the complete opposite, despite it being a sell out. The average person at this gig was either middle aged, with their boyfriend / girlfriend (anyone else find overly couple-y couples at gigs extremely annoying?), or a civilised granny and granddad duo. The variety in the audience does however reflect the large appeal of War on Drugs, with their music obviously ticking a lot of boxes for a wide range of people and ages. From the constant clapping and whooping it was obvious fans were appreciative and were clearly enjoying the indie-rock group’s solid performance. About halfway through the set they landed their most popular track off the new album Lost in the Dream, ‘Red Eyes’, which injected the audience with life and thus began the both charming and embarrassing dad dancing. I’d say a few tracks after ‘Red Eyes’ the songs seemed to all merge into one to me, and although considering their released music it should have been expected. I did find on a whole the music to be fairly one-dimensional and of one tone which got slightly boring and monotonous towards the end.
I could say the actual playing was faultless but this would be a lie… during the encore lead vocalist forgot his words which received a unanimous chuckle from the audience. Granduciel wore a bemused expression and declared “nah nah sorry I’ve fucked up… my mind was in other places… I was thinking about how blind I am and then started thinking about my glasses that my dog ate… and then I forgot to sing”. This outburst, alongside the pared back stage and set design, simple lighting, and relaxed fashion choices from band members (including an incredible attempt at the double denim trend from Granduciel) added to the laid back and amiability that War on Drugs as a whole seemed to emanate.
I wouldn’t recommend going to see War on Drugs if you’re after a raw or flawless performance, or a rowdy night in general. I would however, recommend if you’re into a great few live toe tappers, an amazing atmosphere, and charming anecdotes in-between tracks from the magnificent six piece. There are still few dates left on their UK tour which you can find here.