War on Drugs finally hits O2 Academy, Getintothis’ Sean Bradbury gets lost in the contours of love and loss.
There is a beautiful tension at the crux of what The War on Drugs do best.
For the most part, here are songs racked by regret and stung by sadness. They cover all the contours of love and loss, and come wrapped in the restlessness of life on the open road.
Yet the tunes tend to paint a different picture to the words; triumphant motorik beats, uplifting surges of guitar and even sleazy flashes of baritone saxophone.
Maybe tension is the wrong word and resolution is the right one. The War on Drugs‘ lyrics may ask searching questions, but their music suggests strident answers.
They play in that moment where a firm course of action is decided upon. There are problems, but there is also clarity on what to do about them.
Listening to them live, it is impossible not to feel this reflected and become utterly caught up in their compelling charge towards solace.
They begin with Burning and illustrate the point; “Cross the rich derivative of pain/Crush the burning in your heart” wails out across the room, but backed by something much more hopeful with heavy shades of Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark.
Under the Pressure delivers a slightly different effect, cruising along in a kosmische reverie before kicking into top gear.
Lyrically, Adam Granduciel repeatedly acknowledges his awareness of the situation with the refrain: “Under the pressure/it’s where we are.”
Most of the band’s third album Lost in The Dream gets a run out, but there are many highlights from earlier times.
Slave Ambient’s Your Love Is Calling My Name is definitely one, morphing into an 11-minute jam layered with cascading lead lines and finishing with Granduciel kneeling at the front of the stage, coaxing out all the feedback he can muster.
There is even time for an appropriate and local cover before a stunning set comes to a close: George Harrison’s Beware of Darkness – three words which perhaps The War on Drugs are also trying to take to heart.
There was another Anglophile nod earlier in the night, when support act Amen Dunes dedicated their song Bedroom Drum to Lee Mavers of The La’s.
Damon McMahon and co’s lo-fi, psychedelic ripples were the ideal warn up for The War on Drugs, the soothing ebb and flow of Lonely Richard a particular standout.
Read Getintothis’ Peter Guy on War On Drugs‘ Lost In The Dream – our #1 album of 2014
Photos by Getintothis’ Tom Adam