Philadelphia band The War on Drugs was formed in 2005 by Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile. Vile, of course, has pursued a successful solo career, but The War On Drugs have continued churning out soulful, road-weary Americana, led by Granduciel moaning vocals, a spot-on rhythm section, and delicate, organic guitar lines. 2011’s acclaimed Slave Ambient is the band’s first full-length release since 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues, and with a reputation for moving live performances, we couldn’t be happier to have them playing at Mellow Johnny’s.
In front of a sizable crowd at Mellow Johnny’s, The War on Drugs played a number of songs from Slave Ambient, as well as “Coming Through” from the 2010 EP Future Weather. Hunched over the mic, his mangy brown hair hanging dangling, Granduciel led the band’s driving, soulful indie rock that conjured SXSW’s keynote performer, Bruce Springsteen. In between songs, Granduciel asked the audience if anyone had caught The Boss’s performance Wednesday night, and when a few answered in the affirmative, he began quizzing them on the specifics of his set list as he tuned his guitar for the next song. The War on Drugs closed their set out with “I Was There” from Slave Ambient and, like many of their songs, it featured a steady, driving rhythm section on top of which Granduciel plucked bubbling, babbling guitar licks that offset his droning vocals beautifully. I don’t know if their set was as good as Springsteen’s the night before — despite one audience member insisting it was — but The War on Drugs certainly didn’t disappoint.