Almighty, ambitious and arena-ready: The War On Drugs treat Leeds to world-class set
Ever since The War On Drugs first exploded onto the mainstream in 2014, it has been an upward spiral of form for the Philadelphian rock outfit. After four years away from our shores, the six-piece brought their I Don’t Live Here Anymore tour to Leeds’ First Direct Arena; a cavernous colosseum almost readymade for the band.
The sheer size of frontman Adam Granduciel’s pedalboard set the tone for the might of the show that was to come. Opening with ‘Old Skin’ into the timeless ‘Pain’, Granduciel and co. transformed the arena into an eclectic light show with an enormous sound to match, taking their studio sound to a whole new level. The atmospheric, explosive nature of many of their song structures showcased Granduciel’s effortless guitar technicalities, his unique style of writing solos shining through in songs like ‘Living Proof.’
Hit single ‘Red Eyes’ sent a fairly nonchalant crowd into raptures, the synthesiser and riff emanating as if it were a shared descendant of The Killers, Pink Floyd and Arcade Fire. Drummer Charlie Hall’s driving rhythms were particularly slick throughout the night, letting the piano and guitar breathe in tracks such as ‘Victim’ and ‘An Ocean Between The Waves.’
Towards the back end of the set, as Granduciel shared anecdotes on memories from Brudenell Social Club and a request from some fans he met earlier in the day, the band strayed from the printed setlist into an aura of spontaneity, whilst maintaining the highest of levels. ‘Brothers’ and a cover of The Waterboys’ ‘Pagan Place’ were welcome additions, as the rainbow colours of the lighting rig resonated around the arena.
The highlight of the night proved to be ‘Under The Pressure’, as the resurgent climax sent waves of pure ecstasy around the crowd, still singing the riff as they exited the building. The inevitable conclusion of ‘Thinking Of A Place’ rounded off a world-class performance, epitomising this unique live sound that the band have found.
Truly at the pinnacle of their career, the band have soared to new heights with this tour that will only be propelled even higher. I Don’t Live Here Anymore is out now via Atlantic Records.
Words by Rishi Shah
Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill