With friend and musical co-conspirator Kurt Vile in town shortly and getting more attention one might expect Adam Granduciel and his band The War on Drugs to fly under the radar yet they went close to selling out the Oxford Art Factory and played a show that was hypnotic and faultless.
Locals Day Ravies opened the evening with a set that was tentative and underwhelming initially but the quartet gathered steam, found their feet and weighted the back half of their set with their best songs. There was the nagging sense of an unresolved tug of war between the indie-lite guitar pop with docile vocals and the heavier psych/shoegaze direction, primarily led by the guitar of Sam Wilkinson. Day Ravies are still a band growing into their sound based on this performance.
As they took the stage, the immediate impact of The War On Drugs was the quality of the sound mix. Everything was in the pocket with an interesting and slightly processed drum sound, full and deep bass with guitar nestled in-between and the vocals clear and up front. The band played a diverse set that encompassed their various albums and EPs. Highlights included the infectious Baby Missiles and a blissed-out Brothers but really there were no weak points in the hour-long set. Granduciel was genuinely endearing in his banter with the audience which made the gig feel like a gathering of band and like-minded music fans. One generous punter even gave him a copy of The Triffids’ Calenture on vinyl.
The War On Drugs often get labelled as drone and psych but tonight they were a rock band that reveled in traditional musical elements such as the way Granduciel bends and shapes his words in a Dylan-esque fashion, the expansive moodiness of U2 circa The Unforgettable Fire and the bluesy harmonica moments. As a band they sounded effortless yet sonically bold and muscular, like a plane cruising at 30,000 feet. An early highlight for 2014.
this review was first published in The Music