Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The War On Drugs - (LIVE REVIEW) Nottingham Rock City March 1st 2015

Photo - Graham Talbot

Perhaps within the mass-stream of consciousness, the arrival of The War on Drugs (TWOD) appears something of a recent phenomenon. However, as the Philadelphian outfit prove tonight at Nottingham’s Rock City, the extraordinary success of their most recent album is nothing but a moment of clarity in what has been a long search, both musically and personally, for fulfilment.
Synonymous with music anchored by a synergy of synthesized and more natural sonics, there can often be a disorientation in the manner in which textually rich music is translated in a live setting. So, having submerged myself of late in their most recent album prior Lost in Dream, drenched in its emotive and atmospheric colouring, I was almost nervous to witness whether or not TWOD would resonate through their sold out Nottingham show. To my wide relief, I am not left disappointed as for each soar, whir and growl of their most seminal work to date, the band go further to expand the imagination of the crowd in an intense and deeply satisfying performance.

Beginning their set with Under the Pressure (Lost in Dream), TWOD provide a well-rounded set list that also includes favourites from both their debut album Wagonwheel Blues, and indeed their second release Slave Ambient. A particular highlight comes in the frenetic and expansive Baby Missiles’ which consumes everything within the four walls of Rock City with its sheer sonic breadth. With TWOD, nothing is left to chance and rarely is there a moment in which a tactical toilet trip is afforded. Whilst the material stretches a range of bases, the rich, immersive soundscape that defines TWOD offers a consistency that breathes life into the performances of singer Adam Granduciel and co. Moreover, visually there is a simplicity that offers no pretence or pyrotechnics. This, a refreshing approach that allows the music to stand alone as the audience’s principal focus. This is certainly true when watching Charlie Hall and David Hartley - bass and drums respectively - who whilst boasting an impressively metronomic musical relationship don’t negate on a sense of passion and engagement. In a sense, TWOD form a marvelous equilibrium in which they effortlessly glide through their set, defying all signs of ‘rockisms’, without conveying a sense of apathy or ingenuity. Whilst they clearly have no idea about what, who or where ‘Notting-ham’ is, there is a real endearing sense that the band are appreciative of their surroundings.

The progression of TWOD evident in that they appear to have added a touch of the anthemic within their music. This, ultimately the factor that has propelled them to recognition at the BRIT/Madonna awards - irrelevant/amusing as that may well be - is a mark of the potential reach that the band now has at its disposal. With songs such as Red Eyes’ there are noticeable positive fluctuations in audience engagement, that validates the longer, more experimental tracks within the live show of TWOD. With the world now sitting up and taking notice of TWOD, their three albums of critical success demonstrates that this is no short-lived phenomenon. As Your Love Is Calling My Name comes to a close and the adoring crowd bids farewell to the somewhat shy performers, I leave with a warming sense of normality within an otherwise manic and psychotic music industry. Here is a band unafraid to embrace the fundamental concepts of performance in its most pure form, despite commercial and popular success.  

Words - Matt Taylor