The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

LIVE: The War On Drugs – Leeds O2 Academy, 26.02.2015

by Matthew Langham and Ed Biggs

The War On Drugs stopped off in Leeds on their victory lap of the UK, celebrating the slow-burning commercial success of last year’s Lost In The Dream, this publication’s runner-up for album of 2014. The band’s growth has been such that tonight’s gig had to be upgraded in venue size from the Brudenell Social Club to the O2 Academy, and the album’s reputation burgeoned to the extent that this most independently-minded of bands was rewarded with a Brit Awards nomination, the ceremony for which they had attended the previous night (in the event, they lost out to the perennially boring Foo Fighters).

Midway through their superb two-hour set, the group’s leader Adam Granduciel acknowledged the bizarreness of that situation – “who’d have thought that?” – but the make-up of tonight’s audience, a diverse mix of young and old, indicates the broad nature of their appeal. The classic rock ambience is recognisable to fans of ‘70s favourites like Springsteen, Dire Straits and The Eagles, yet tinges of psychedelia and modern ennui update the sound to appeal to a generation of twenty-somethings.

Opening with Lost In The Dream’s mesmerising first track ‘Under The Pressure’, they glided through tracks from all three of their albums and each was just as raw, compelling and subtle as the next. The graceful pop bullseye of ‘Baby Missiles’ and fan favourite ‘Burning’ fitted perfectly together as a swirling hypnotic combination. It is the intricacy and willingness to explore and improvise where The War On Drugs score best. The set passes half-way with ‘Eyes To The Wind’ and ‘Disappearing’ which takes a more mellow tone, yet still compelling.

Having exhausted material from Lost In The Dream, a five-song encore for long-term fans saw The War On Drugs cement their place as one of the finest live bands in the business. The eight-minute long (and very loud!) ‘Your Love Is Calling My Name’ kicked off a mesmerising guitar solo perfectly accompanies by the rest of the band at the top of their game. That they can hit so hard with the lightest of touches demonstrates the group’s unique power, a throwback to a different era of music that can still appeal to the Spotify generation.

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