Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: The War on Drugs at Haw River Ballroom

Photo by Will Jackson
In front of a sold out crowd at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, The War on Drugs performed a spectacular show.

The War on Drugs share an amazing chemistry as a band. All of the band’s pieces, which for this show included two guitars, a bass, a keyboards, drums, and multiple brass instruments, fit together to form one sound. Very seldom does one sound rise above the others and break the ranks. Even as front man Adam Granduciel solos, his guitar doesn’t drown out the rest of the members, just complements them.

The best part of the War on Drugs shows are Granduciel’s solos. Starting at any point in the song, Granduciel will free form solos that can range from a quick 30 seconds to five minutes, creating beautiful melodies.  Granduciel is an amazing guitarist, very technical, very smooth. He is not trying to impress anyone, he just plays, and the crowd ate it up.

It's also no secret that Granduciel suffers from anxiety, he’s mentioned it in multiple interviews. That stage anxiety could be seen during his solos when he turned away from the crowd, playing next to an amp and creating feedback. It was also evident during the dead air that occurred during some of the breaks between songs. But there was some talk with the crowd, even cracking a joke when asking for a request, and then quickly yelling out “Can’t hear ya!” before going into the next song.

The sound in the venue was amazing. Festival level loudness inside of a relatively modestly sized venue. The instruments were loud, but each could be distinguished, and the solos were even louder, with Granduciel holding his guitar to the amp to create even more noise. Unfortunately, with all of that noise, many of Granduciel’s vocals were inaudible or obscured.

On a side note, what ever happened to the classic encore? Five songs is too many. For anyone. An encore has become something a band expects, not necessarily deserves. And while War on Drugs definitely deserved that encore call, four of the five songs could have been incorporated into the set.

The overly long encore set wasn’t much of a negative; we got to see more of a great band. And while the deafeningly loud sound probably took a year of everyone’s hearing life, I don’t think anyone left disappointed.

1 comment:

aburtch said...

Stellar band in a world-class venue. What a treat.