There must have been something in the air, though, as much of the crowd yammered their way through the show, paying little heed to the fact that there was a band playing great music mere yards away from them. The negatives in the atmosphere were plenty; first, let's run down the high points.
Guitarist Adam Granduciel, decked out in a camouflage Boston Celtics hat and button-down white shirt, led the band in ascendent jams all night. Simply put, the guy knows how and when to pitch a soaring solo. In both "Suffering" and "Come to the City," Granduciel took the audience on a cross-country carpet ride through air currents and time. His reverb-soaked tone often arrived at the perfect time, never caving in on the rest of the band's harmonics.
And then there were the catchier tunes in the War on the Drugs' repertoire: songs like "Red Eyes" and "Best Night," both of which thundered into the Grog Shop with more intensity than on their respective albums. The studio take of "Red Eyes" comes complete with random, excited "woo"-ing from Granduciel; the shouts were amplified tenfold in a live setting.
The end of the set was incredibly stirring. Feedback loops enveloped the Grog Shop in between "Come to the City" and "In Reverse," each triumphant highlights of the show. The latter, which closes out the new album Lost in the Dream, ranks among Granduciel's finest songs. Live and in-person, the emotions in his lyrics crawled across the stage and chilled the room - offering one of the few moments of the night where the crowd shut up and tuned in wholly.
Awesome, awesome stuff.
Throughout the show, a thoroughly unavoidable fact crept into and among the music: This band shouldn't be playing here. Their sound demands a bigger stage and better acoustics. Depending on where one was standing in the crowd (mostly anywhere, in this case, though), the frequent treble tones clanged around the Grog's basement pipes and columns. At times, the band's sound could really only be deciphered by audience members who knew the song structures ahead of time. Whoever was manning the soundboard randomly kicked everything into high-volume, kaleidoscopic shrillness throughout the gig.
The band's sound also demands a bit more attention from the sold-out crowd.
That last point is fairly widespread among shows of all ilk. Too often, people are talking through the concert and Instagramming shitty photos of the band. One group at the War on Drugs show, in particular, sort of near the middle of the crowd, actually held up a conversation about their friends throughout the entire show. This isn't even really just a matter of disrespect to other people in the audience and to the band; this comes down to cultural vapidity, people with brains too small to process great music unfolding before them. There was too much of that at Friday's show, totally hampering whatever hypnotic effects were promised by the headliner on the bill.
Here's a quote from another local reviewer, who relays something spoken by a large gentleman nearby: "I don’t know, they sound like a bunch of cool shit." That's a pretty good barometer for what the crowd seemed like on Friday. High praise, to be sure.
Anyway, the new War on Drugs album is fantastic. The show was great, despite bad vibes throughout the room. Check out the video for "Red Eyes" below the setlist notes.
Under the Pressure
I Was There
An Ocean In Between The Waves
Eyes to the Wind
Arms Like Boulders
I Hear You Calling (Bill Fay cover)
Come to the City
Lost In The Dream
Buenos Aires Beach