The War on Drugs, London Electric Ballroom, 28th February 2012

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words and pictures by Jonathan Greer

It says something for the popularity of the War On Drugs that their third London show in six months is in a sold out Electric Ballroom. Despite this the venue does seem to be lacking a little in atmosphere and buzz, and the support slot from Weird Dreams suffers a lot from high volume peaks and leaves most of the audience non-plussed.
As soon as The War on Drugs start to play those sound issues have vanished and although they use the venue's large PA to full effect, they do sound very smooth.
They play a lengthy set, concentrating mostly on last year's 'Slave Ambient' album and gradually building their mix of guitars, keyboards and drums into a powerfully psychedelic wall of sound, which becomes very hypnotic from about 30 minutes in. Perhaps their best known song 'Baby Missiles' is played early on, and they also fire up the strobes early in the set as well.

For all their pyschedelic noise leanings, it is obvious how much they are influenced by Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and the version of 'I Was There' underlines this was some decent harmonica playing. It is in the middle of the set that things start to get a bit special. 'Your love is Calling my Name' drifts into 'the Animator' and the harmonica adds a bit of ambience toi the overall guitar fuzz, then they go into a very hypnotic version of 'Come to The City' which is one of the real highlights. They extend 'Best Night' to great effect as well, before bringing this dreamy section to an end by re-engaging with the crowd and inviting people to come and play guitar with them.

Some brave guy takes the stage and plays acoustic guitar on 'Brothers', and he does a pretty fine job. 'Black Water Falls' is next, then a (relatively) old favourite 'Coming Through' is given a welcome airing. The real surprise though is a very faithful version of the Waterboys song 'A Pagan Place' which retains a lot of the emotional power of the original version. The main set finishes with a great 'Arms like Boulders', then a couple of fine encores ('It's Your Destiny' was one, featuring great pinao playing) take us up towards closing time and into the night.

1 comment:

  1. Really looking forward to seeing them in the Thekla tomorrow night. I have a feeling that the venue will suit them perfectly. It will be a fine night.