The War On Drugs – Live Drugs: Album Review

Live Drugs by The War On Drugs arrives just in time to rescue us with a collection of live recordings sequenced to replicate a 70-minute set, bringing deep joy at the end of a tumultuous year.

Release date :  20th November 2020

Label:  Super High Quality Records

Format: CD / DL / vinyl

Sometimes, a best of collection is usually the only way on one album to show the evolution of a particular group or performer but here, The War On Drugs illustrate their musical development through a selection of live performances.

The live set opens with Ocean Between The Waves from  Lost In A Dream. It  gathers pace to warm up the audience and listener before the dreamy opening emerges to Pain from the most recent Grammy Award-winning A Deeper Understanding. The forlorn Strangest Thing also from A Deeper Understanding follows a similar pattern of tranquil opening leading to storming glorious guitar solo ending.

The pacy more joyful Red Eyes is rightly met with raptured applause. An obvious live concert choice with its compulsive riff and energy. Thinking Of A Place is played to express a reverie, and hopefulness seems to reflect many of The War On Drugs’ lyrics; a constant search but what is being sought always seems just out of reach. An infectious beat carries this lovely song through and despite its length, you just get swallowed up in this gorgeous song. Time doesn’t matter; you just want it to go on and never end.

Leaving recent recordings behind, the bouncy Buenos Aires Beach from their debut album shows their early material can blend in nicely with the more contemporary songs but still illustrates their distinctive sound.

Tribute is paid to Warren Zevon (the Werewolf of London) with their soulful interpretation of his Accidentally Like  A Martyr. A different version of  Eyes To The Wind comes amidst the band introductions and shows Adam Granduciel’s determination to re-interpret their own music. He admits, “Even though we’ve recorded it, mastered it, put it out, and been touring on it, it doesn’t mean that we just have to do it the same way forever.

When a band is brilliantly performing this well who cares and who would deny them this freedom?

Of the ten tracks on Live Drugs, eight of them were on the setlist when The War On Drugs last toured Britain, which should please UK fans. Under The Pressure would have been a sad omission and like all live albums, there’s always a favourite missing (a total absence of tracks from Slave Ambient may be rued by some), but its inclusion here merging into another re-defining of In Reverse concludes the concert. 

One would never know the album is a patchwork of several gigs over a year of touring but the joy of being totally immersed in their own interpretations of The War On Drugs’ music comes through clearly.

 “It feels like it’s kind of a reset, to be able to put something out that’s a really good interpretation of the way we interpret our music live,” says Adam Granduciel whilst they are recording new material. And whilst we wait with anticipation for a new release,  wallow in this glorious live document. It will leave you completely enraptured. Let it warm your chilly winter months during hopefully, the last throes of the crackdown.

Listen the official audio for Pain here:

War On Drugs online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube

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