Live Reviews

The War On Drugs – First Direct Arena, Leeds: Live Review

The War On Drugs bring their latest show to Leeds in support of their latest record: I Don’t Live Here Anymore

Having swelled their output with another fine album in the form of I Don’t Live Here Anyway (our review here), The War On Drugs displayed their fine run of records with a spellbinding performance in Leeds.

Support from LA’s Lo Moon was perfect in the style of music for the audience, and the reciprocal love between the two bands evident from countless acknowledgments of each other throughout both bands’ sets. In support of their latest record, A Modern Life, Lo Moon displayed a high level of musicianship. Each musician showcased multi-talents on different instruments throughout the set. Particular highlights came in the Talk Talk styled I Tried To Make You My Own from their self-titled debut LP as well as a slew of newer songs.

Raincoats holds a hint of Unforgettable Fire U2 and tracks like Stop has flecks of Steven Wilson smattered in its DNA. Sporting a Leeds United shirt, to the behest of a minority in the White Rose county, singer Matt Lowell talks of his best friend being a Leeds fan. It is just one aspect of a set that ensures a good rapport with the audience is built. Throughout the set, as the crowd grows, Lo Moon win over everyone and will undoubtedly leave with a raft of new fans. Modern Life evokes imagery of LA’s skyline and a rousing and emphatic rendition of Loveless that closes the set leaves the crowd suitably ready for the main attraction.

I Don’t Live Here Anymore forms the vast majority of The War On Drugs setlist however Adam Granduciel and co. pace a setlist perfectly with older material that means the crowd in Leeds grow raucous throughout their 130-minute set. As the set progresses, there is a loose feel to the setlist that feels as if they are playing songs to suit the mood of the crowd. Granduciel acknowledges shouts from the crowd, particularly Eyes To The Wind, however it doesn’t make the cut.

Whilst Eyes To The Wind doesn’t make the cut, there is plenty of material from 2014’s breakout album, Lost In The Dream. In Reverse and the Springsteen infused Burning are received rapturously but the crowd response for emphatic An Ocean Between The Waves, Red Eyes and Under The Pressure are something else.

Under The Pressure makes a claim for the greatest War On Drugs track ever. The crowd are vociferous as they bounce, sing, cheer, clap, throw beer and echo melodies in chants even after the song has finished. This is a proper atmosphere and one that so many have longed for after the most tumultuous of years. It is truly and honour to be in such a place again witnessing a community like this loving live music.

Cuts from A Deeper Understanding like Pain and Strangest Thing (dedicated to Lo Moon) help the crowd along with familiarity and several pieces from 2011’s Slave Ambient are lovely surprises. Brothers is dedicated to Noel and Liam, although we’re quite a way from their roots. Baby Missiles drives hard and Come To The City completes a trio of songs from the earlier LP.

I Don’t Live Here Anymore might be a newer LP but there is so much love for the album in the crowd. The formula might not be far removed from previous records but the ability to make vast songs sound intimate and heartwarming is a skill that The War On Drugs keep honing and perfecting. The title track of the album is effervescent with heavy backing vocals and I Don’t Wanna Wait will be an anthemic staple of any set going forward. An undoubted highlight of the new material is Harmonia’s Dream – the synth-led opening is extended as the crowd clap along enthusiastically. It is another song that will begged to be included in the future.

On stage, the septet are tight. Granduciel is surrounded by a vast amount of pedals to help create The War On Drugs trademark sounds. There is plenty of patter from the stage offering thanks and love to all quarters. “How we doing everybody? Thanks for coming,” chirps Granduciel; “nowhere else we’d rather be on a Saturday night!” Even as the openings to Pain and Brothers are a little awry and are restarted, everything is passed of with joviality that speaks volumes for the relationship built between band and audience.

This is the best day I’ve had in four months,” jokes Granduciel about not seeing the sun for four months – it was a particularly balmy day in Leeds. There is also a nod to ‘the social’ which one can only imagine is a shout to one of Leeds’ fines venues – the Brudenell Social Club – where the band played in 2011. Band introductions are dropped in throughout the set to acknowledge the skilled musicians that make this really good band great.

Thank yous are never far from the tongue of Granduciel – and it is with this that we fully concur. The lighting crew showcased a wonderful and mesmerising light show that helped enhance the show, and the staff and security at Leeds Arena were all superb (at least in our interactions). These people are the unsung heroes of the live music community and they deserve all of our praise.

As the set draws to the close, Granduciel recalls meeting two fans outside his hotel in Leeds and he apologises for being ‘short’ with them as he had just woken up! Owing to them being ‘super nice’ and making a small request, a brilliant version of The Waterboy’s A Pagan Place precedes the closer of Thinking Of A Place. The War On Drugs play right up to curfew without a break/encore. “That’s all the time we have folks,” says Granduciel as the two hour-plus set closes. The time flew by and showed why The War On Drugs are really a band to treasure.

Listen to Hamonia’s Dream from The War On Drugs below.

Lo Moon play in London on 25th April – you can get tickets here – they are well worth your time and money.

The War On Drugs: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube / Bandcamp

Lo Moon: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Live photos by Mike Ainscoe

If you would like to keep up with At The Barrier, you can like us on Facebook here, follow us on Twitter here, and follow us on Instagram here. We really appreciate all your support.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.