Adam Granduciel has never been one to let success and fame get to his head. “It’s Friday night!” he exclaimed to the Neptune crowd at the The War on Drugs‘ sold out performance that night,.“Does anyone have any big plans for the weekend?” The innate irony of the question is lost on no one but Graduciel himself. The fact is, whatever anyone’s weekend plans may have been, nothing was going to top the show this evening that set an impossible bar for all weekends and shows to come only half way through. The War on Drugs have always been a band revered for their live performances, but tonight’s two hour spectacle, heavy on material from their incredible new album, Lost in the Dream, was a performance to end all others. The four song set on KEXP that afternoon was a taster – tonight was the full Monty. Together with an excellent set from ASDF White Laces, The War on Drugs maintained their deserved place among the live gods with a night the Neptune won’t soon forget.
Richmond band White Laces had the pleasure of making their first ever full US tour a team-effort together with the War on Drugs. That is not a privilege that many young bands get! But tonight, White Laces proved their worth one hundred times over with an excellent set of warm indie pop with a post-rock touch. It’s easy to see these guys getting along with Adam and The War on Drugs well. Their 2012 full length Moves and 2013 EP //////Interzone are both chalk full of memorable pop songs with smart hooks. Frontman Landis Wine’s silky guitar licks topped the driving grooves put forth by the rest of his band like icing on a cake track after track. The band dedicated a rendition of “Mountains” to the Cascades after seeing them for the first time. And best of all, after all of the catchy pop tracks and emotional lyrics faded, White Laces were just some seriously nice dudes, grateful for all of the applause and stoked beyond belief to be seeing the country with a great band of their own and a great band to play alongside. Altogether, a fitting and memorable opening set.
After doing their own sound check (always a humanizing aspect of the best shows), The War on Drugs reentered the Neptune auditorium and started in on excellent Lost in the Dream closer “In Reverse”. The choice of opener was altogether too appropriate. From their, the War on Drugs unwound all expectations of the show with one confounding exposé of brilliant songwriting and even more astounding musicianship after another. Adam Granduciel stays pretty mellow up on stage, but what he’s not selling you with crowd-bait dancing and cheap participation tricks, he’s giving out in troves with more face-melting guitar licks than you can shake a stick at. Granduciel plays blistering guitar as naturally as us lowlier humans might sign our name on a piece of paper. His movement and his intensity seem altogether natural at this point. Every flinch is intentional and every accent is placed with grace and poise. But never once does he let it get to his head. He’s just another guy with a skill that he’s trying to perfect, one show at a time.
After practicing so much with the band’s current lineup and growing together, the tracks from 2011’s excellent Slave Ambient sound even more luscious and overwhelming than they did the first time around. “I Was There” and “Baby Missiles” were divine, as well as a boatload of others. As this was our first experience hearing the bulk of Lost In The Dream live, there was plenty more to gawk at after that. Hearing “Under The Pressure” and “Red Eyes” back to back live took the grace of the record and added an expansive presence that blew any expectation of greatness and emotional captivity out of the water. The latter track the party people packed into the center of the room off their feet and letting all precaution to the wind. Granduciel dedicated the captivating slow-burner “Suffering” to Cheryl Waters, who interviewed them earlier on their afternoon KEXP session. “An Ocean Between The Waves” and “Eyes To The Wind” both ran circles around their condensed counterparts on the record. As far as emotional impact goes though, nothing beat “Burning”. The Springstein drive and insuppressible passion of that track devoured the crowd like an inferno.
Even two hours later, the impossible soul of the War on Drugs was alive and impactful as ever. Adam and the band made sure to thank the crowd for making tonight an incredible endeavor, with a sold-out gig and an excitement whose equal has been unseen at the Neptune in recent history. After thanking everyone involved in every step of the band’s touring process, the band bade farewell to a grateful crowd that applauded for minutes afterward. Until next time, thanks to The War on Drugs for a passionate and emotional experience with a compassionate spirit unlike any other.
The War on Drugs: