The War on Drugs

The War On Drugs: Surrounded by the night

The War On Drugs | Brixton Academy | 24 February 2015

Adam Granduciel spent two years meticulously crafting the songs on ‘Lost In The Dream’. So of course he’s put just as much effort into recreating them — near perfectly — on stage. Handling vocals and lead guitar, the War on Drugs creative genius has surrounded himself with a five-piece band — including a saxophonist and multiple keyboard players — to recapture the obsessive detail of his original studio recordings.

Musically, at least, the approach is a success. Sprawling nine-minute opener ‘Under The Pressure’ sets the tone, the earnest Dylanesque vocals swirling through long ambient passages of rippling guitars, droning saxes, and lush synths. ‘Disappearing’ and ‘Eyes To The Wind’, performed back to back as they are on the album, blend lyrics of despair with blurry, dreamy soundscapes.

‘Your Love Is Calling My Name’, from 2011’s ‘Slave Ambient’, hits the accelerator with its incessant beat and fuzz-guitar storm. ‘Burning’ shimmers to life as a gleaming ‘80s Springsteen anthem, slowly emerging out of what sounds like a vintage Vangelis keyboard line. The unforgettable melody of ‘Red Eyes’ even sparks a loud yet respectful hum-along from the packed Brixton Academy.

But the audience gets little love back. In his concerted pursuit of perfection, the tightly restrained Granduciel doesn’t have much time for pleasantries — or unfiltered passion. Only a ragged, growling guitar solo during tempestuous show centrepiece ‘An Ocean In Between The Waves’ has the frontman breaking away from the album version. A few more moments of such rare spontaneity may have helped a tastefully sublime performance feel a little less like listening to records on a very very good sound system.

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