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The War On Drugs - Brixton Academy, London 02/03/15

04 March 2015, 14:19 | Written by George O'Brien

A lot has been said and written about The War On Drugs over the past year - and not least by us. The release of their third LP Lost In The Dream sparked an almost unanimous raft of critical acclaim. Indeed, something of a modern classic, it was our Album of the Year and we weren't the only ones allowing it such an accolade. Its deeply thoughtful and equally thought-provoking Americana is as timeless as it is refreshing in our current musical climate, building on its predecessor into a full-length with stunning nuance that fails to get old almost a year on.

All this you feel has culminated in an entirely justified Brit Award nomination, something that even the most staunch TWOD fan surely cannot have imagined this time last year. That, and two sold out nights at the famous Brixton Academy, suggests they are really cementing themselves as a true indie success story. And it is these live shows that give Adam Granduciel and co. the opportunity to bring the above mentioned masterpiece to life.

Immediately tonight feels like a progression on previous UK outings: Camden's KOKO was undeniably special as one of our first real tastes of Lost... live; performances at Glastonbury and Green Man offered that unique festival atmosphere where their elongated jamming and relentless drumming feels very much at home, but tonight is a coming of age moment. "This one goes out to The Windmill; we played there like three of four times", Granduciel says before playing Wagonwheel Blues' "Arms Like Boulders" and, without revealing too much emotion, the exceptional talent neatly highlights quite how far this album has taken them.

Unlike previous outings, here we are treated to atmospheric, almost nu-classical music throughout the build-up, throbbing out around the iconic Art Deco Brixton stage with its blue wash lighting; they are proper, thought-out additions to what has always been a musically brilliant show. The appearance of the six men is then met with a boisterous response, punctuated by boy band-esque shrieks that feature throughout the evening at key moments in the set; that bit in "Under The Pressure" for example, just one of many for the thousands in attendance who have all lived so closely with one record.

We’re also introduced to one of the sets running-themes during this wonderful opener; Granduciel’s effortless stage presence. For a man so openly troubled about the creation of music, his demeanour on stage is anything but: vocally he is languid, playing around with his melodies at times in a chit-chat sense of relaxation, emphasising that Bob Dylan twang that sneaks into everything he does. Those “woo!”s that signal the real fist clenching instances seem to appear at more regular intervals than on record, jumping out of favourites like "Red Eyes" and "Baby Missiles"; the organ-filled latter flies out early with its brilliant Bruce Springsteen hue.

And then there's his guitar playing. Aligned with the aforementioned stage presence Granduciel is as at one with an electric guitar as you could imagine: blistering solo after blistering solo, ear-wrenchingly screams out from a player entirely lost in his art. "In Reverse" - a spine-tingling set, and indeed album, highlight - is elongated with beautifully powerful riff work, while the ferocious “An Ocean In Between The Waves” feels like their hit single. The six compliment each other with glorious synergy as his support players calmly saunter through the set with minimum fuss alongside the hair-sweeping rock n’ roll style of their leading man.

The Philidephia outfit wrap things up with Slave Ambient’s "Come To The City" before re-appearing for a much demanded encore of melancholic title track "Lost In The Dream”, “Your Love Is Calling My Name” and “It’s Your Destiny”, taking the performance comfortably past the two hour mark. The sign of a special band playing a special show is when the only blemish is the omission of a personal favourite as "Suffering" - a member of the previous week's set list - is nowhere to be seen. But it just doesn't matter such is the strength and depth of their work now. Another completely memorable encounter with The War On Drugs; a band who continue to be lost in a dream that we are more than happy to share.

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