Show Review: The War On Drugs ACL Taping 04/06
Last year’s Lost In The Dream took The War On Drugs’ claim to fame to a whole new level, landing them atop most year end lists as well as a longtime spot in my personal listening catalogue. So naturally the folks over at ACL TV wanted to catch Adam Granduciel and company at the height of their musical career so far and get them on for a taping, which resulted in a short night of tunes mostly from that newest album. Read on for more thoughts on the night.
The War On Drugs took the stage to a pretty amped up crowd: sometimes at a taping you get sort of a mixed bag of audience members in terms of enthusiasm towards the actual performers instead of the spectacle of a taping. Such was not the case for these gentlemen, and with each song they played the crowd seemed to get a bit more into it and with good reason: they sounded great. The mix was a perfect level of loud when necessary for jamming purposes, but not so loud that they overpowered Granduciel’s poetic lyrics and voice. They opened with “Under The Pressure,” which started the night off on a strong note, went for a quick trip back through their catalogue with “Baby Missiles” and “Arms Like Boulders” from their other two albums respectively, but the rest of the night belonged to Lost In The Dream. And we were all a little lost with Granduciel, whose performance is highly intimate; eyes closed and head down as he plays cutting guitar swiftly and effortlessly it seems like we may have just happened upon him playing a song to himself. It’s not so much of a performance as a man with his guitar that we’ve been allowed to witness.
The highlight of the night for me was the band’s rendition of “In Reverse.” As much as The War On Drugs really shine when they turn it up loud and jam hard, they move with even more force when they tone it down and work their way back up to that high-energy. When the guitar of this song burst from the speakers at the Moody Theater it was something else. Now I’m no mystic, but there was a tangible sensation it evoked in the crowd, and Granduciel played his guitar masterfully for a bit before beginning the song with “You were out in the street, talkin’ bout the war with me…” Every one of these songs are highly emotional and heavy, which was converted so strongly to this live setting. In this same song the band did a full stop before transitioning from just Granduciel to the whole band and the crowd remained completely silent, a bit in awe of what they were witnessing.
The only part of the evening I would change was the lack of an encore from the band, which, I’ve been informed, is the norm for an ACL taping (I guess the three other tapings with encores I’ve been to were all exceptions to this phenomenon). Other than that, the night was filled with passionate performances from every member of the band— the most passionate from the front man and his guitar. Say what you want about The War On Drugs, but you’ll eat your negative words when you see this episode of Austin City Limits, which shows a wonderful night of music from a band in their prime.