Live Reviews

The War On Drugs – Piece Hall, Halifax: Live Review

The War On Drugs – Piece Hall, Halifax – 21st June 2023

war on drugs

Having broken the ice with The War On Drugs in Leeds just over a year ago (our review, the chance to catch them again at the earliest opportunity led to the picturesque Piece Hall. Check our Queens Of The Stone Age review for the historical backstory. Our fist time here, a more pleasant setting would be hard to find and it’s not that often at an outdoor show you can use the phrase, well organised and run, but we certainly shall. A pleasure for punters and press. Even Saul Davis from James, collecting his misplaced AAA pass at the box office, is dealt with most courteously without having to resort to any sort of “do you know who I am – my band is playing here – TWICE! – in a few weeks” – not that he would anyway.

the short run of UK gigs sees WOD in West Yorkshire – the locals let them know in no uncertain terms as Adam Granduciel comments on the idyllic setting, to be met with the “York-shire, York-shire…” chant that goes up whenever there’s a gathering of Yorkshire folk, be it at a sporting, entertainment or social gathering.

Mainman Granduciel has also been featured in the latest Uncut magazine answering questions from the public and hinting that he’s looking forward to this gig; that maybe some recordings may appear on the next WOD live album. “That’s gonna sound incredible because the sound will be bouncing around those old walls,” he says. And it does. Gloriously so.

As Jon & Vangelis’ State Of Independence plays, the band gathers at the side of the stage in full view (maybe they’ve been checking the Metallica pre-show interaction with the front rows ) before stepping up to deliver three back-to-back killers. Pain might be an understated opening gambit but the intensity more than makes up, yet it’s followed by a real banger with Oceans Of Darkness and the first of several atmosphere generators in Ocean Beneath The Waves.

The most recent album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore still features strongly and one of the star turns, Harmonia’s Dream joins with an older cut in the form of Red Eyes to form an explosive mid-set pairing that would have lifted the roof off were the Piece Hall should to have one. The latter is mammoth – instantly recognised within milliseconds of the intro and the excitement both on and offstage is palpable. The starkness of Living Proof that follows feels almost necessary to calm down and take stock.

I heard someone call for this one,” says Granduciel. “We didn’t come all this way to stick to a f**king list!” Someone obviously wants them to dig into the back catalogue as the set gets juggled and Come To The City begins the chest-out, fist-pumping, goosebump-raising march that’s only missing the skirl of bagpipes. Flickering orange lights dance behind the band as the song builds into yet another uplifting anthem.

Filling the space in a Venn diagram populated by Bryan Adams / Springsteen / Eagles, the Broooce comparison comes closest on Eyes To The Wind with the Bittan-esque piano, harmonica and sax break. Close your eyes and it could be the E Street Band playing as the song rolls on and couples at the back and with the courtyard bathed in a dusky glow, the might of Under The Pressure grooves on and on. There’s an almost unbearable tension in the instrumental sequence that seems never ending, before Granduciel returns to the mic and sneers out the title phrase in snarky Dylan fashion.

Occasional Rain checks WOD out in a relaxed manner, much the same way as they breezed in, the jangling guitar and lushness of the washes of texture a perfect leaving song. It’s been a glorious evening of uplifting anthems, passionate and intense and worthy of the iconic setting. It might be the post-gig flush but hard not to declare WOD/Piece Hall as faultless.

Warpaint has earlier opened proceedings in the sort of bright sunshine that made the South East corner a suntrap, necessitating sunshades (and likely sunscreen) for the quartet. Singer Emily Kokal has the unenviable job of looking straight out and has to often shield the sun from her eyes. Preferable to the usual British downpours that come as standard with outdoor musical events..

Their nine song, 45-minute set gave a chance for newcomers to get to grips with a band whose stock in trade is guitar-based pop with a constant stream of springy basslines. The rubbery Talking Heads rhythms are eminently danceable and perfect fare for an evening in the warm sun with a cool beer, it couldn’t have been pitched better. The moodiness of their recorded work gets a rawer feel onstage yet retains an appealing cool and subtlety. With Hard To Tell You and Love Is Ti Die providing both a melancholy and atmospheric contrast with what’s to follow, Disco/Very brings the set to a close with a pulsing groove. Warpaint are noted as definitely worthy of further investigation as well as yet more evidence for the ATB ‘always see the support bands’ mantra.

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

Warpaint online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / other

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