Alexandra Palace – 14th November
When Adam Granduciel and his Philadelphia group signed to major label Atlantic Records for the release of their fourth record Thinking Of A Place, it appeared that The War On Drugs had returned with every intention of stepping up a gear. Their performance in the iconic Victorian halls Alexandra Palace enforced this monumentally, marking their biggest ever headline UK show.
Though Granduciel is often credited as the band’s brainchild, tonight it’s clear that the gestalt of The War on Drugs is a team effort, as its front man often steps back to allow lead guitarist Anthony La Marca the space to shred; though on the likes of ‘Baby Missiles’ and ‘Under The Pressure’ Granduciel can’t help himself.
The contorted and admittedly comical expressions of drummer Charlie Hall as he focuses on his all-important driving rhythms earn him the crowd’s favour though, and they begin to cheer every time he’s projected on to the large-scale screens on each side of the stage. Reverberated sax blasts from Jon Natchez help create the band’s ambience that permeates like the heavy smoke that lingers in front of the stage; this is especially effective in the dreamy ‘Thinking Of A Place’, which tonight tonight to drift for double its 11-minute length.
At times their togetherness makes them seem a little detached from their ten thousand-strong crowd, with little in the way of building rapport, but perhaps that comes with the territory of a no-thrills, classic-rock show, and indeed the time is instead spent building a set that reflects the band’s career, including surprising appearances ‘Buenos Aires Beach’ and ‘Come To The City’ and classics from their landmark record Lost In The Dream. As the jubilant ‘Eyes To The Wind’ closes the show, their final feedback reverberates throughout the cavernous hall with awesome power — huge, guitar-rock as it’s meant to be heard.