Classic rock seems to be back in style – The War on Drugs oozed references to 1980 all over The Phoenix on Monday night. The Philadelphia band’s style is heavy on keyboards and lead guitar, and singer Adam Granduciel sounds like Bob Dylan back when he was quasi-understandable. The blend of Springsteen and hazy low-fi worked so well for the band that the sold-out crowd, myself included, didn’t even appear to miss Kurt Vile’s presence. Lost in the Dream pretty much made people forget that he was in the band in the first place. Oh man, that record is so good!
The set drew from Lost in the Dream quite a bit and their somewhat stoic stage presence matched the tone of the songs. I can’t fault a band for remaining mellow while singing about various stages of emotional unraveling. Their songs did get a lot bigger live, with stretched intros and outros and milked-to-their-fullest guitar solos. The ambiant instrumental parts of the show may have been my favourite since they magnified the complexities and layers of each song. Dave Hartley’s bass lines sang out and the baritone sax gave an amazing lustrous quality to the overall sound. “Under the Pressure” came to life during Granduciel’s insane guitar solo so much that I found a renewed appreciation for the song. The set closed with “Eyes to the Wind” – awesome – and they came back for “Suffering” and “Best Night” as an encore. “Suffering” is by far my favourite song on the album and of the show. Granduciel had me hanging on his every word; that song is a total beauty.
Between their incredible album and massive tour, The War on Drugs’ year has been a doozy. They seem unstoppable at this point, perhaps headed for stadium shows and, I’d bet, for everyone’s “Best of 2014” lists. We’ll see.