The War On Drugs at O2 Academy, Newcastle on 27th February 2015

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Although I’m in the hall by 7:15 the support band are almost finished their set even though there’s not many people in. This is the O2 on Friday when they have the “Dirty Pop” club night at 10pm so we get an early start for both bands. It’s hard to judge the quality of the band, Amen Dunes, as the sound is really lousy with a booming echo bouncing around the walls.

Thankfully, as the six members of the War on Drugs troop on stage, the venue is fuller and the stage bathed in blue light and some bleeping electronics and as they slide into “Under the Pressure” the sound is pretty good though, perhaps, a bit thick. No matter, they sound wonderful as the opening track from their award winning platter “Lost in a Dream” cuts through the night with the band silhouetted across the now white backdrop. The baritone sax sounds superb set in the middle of this thunderous noise and its immediately clear that frontman Adam Granduciel is a stupendous and inventive guitar player as well as an excellent songwriter. This terrific opening song is simply epic and sets the tone for the next 90 minutes with the excellent band conjuring up a stupendous groove that runs through the evening. Drummer Charlie Hall sits on top of the beat gently swaying as he drives things along like a supercharged metronome with Granduciel nodding at him as he shuts a song down. Throughout the gig it’s like the whole band seem to work with some kind of telepathy.

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There’s echoes of classic period Cure and Adam tells us he’s been thinking about the mighty Spiritualized recently and you can certainly here the influence of Jason Pierce’s noiseniks in the thrashing wild music tonight. It’s not all wildness though as Adam picks up a beautiful white Gibson Semi-acoustic and delivers a wonderful shimmering take of the title track that stills the crowd as pencil lasers cross-cross through the air creating sparkling 3D pyramids of light across the stage. The highlight for me, and I suspect most of the crowd, is a simply stunning “Suffering” also from the current album. There’s squalls of reverbed guitar and at the end of this fantastic cacophony of noise Adams down on his knees, guitar wailing and the crowd roaring him on.

They encore with a couple of quieter songs that, because of the lower volume, serve to highlight an increasingly annoying trait at shows and that’s the tendency of a sizeable number of people who seem to want to chat to their friends instead of watching the band. Please, please, please, if this is you SHUT THE F*** UP!

An excellent gig marred by some ill mannered gits.

Reviewer: Greg Johnson
Photographer: Russell Poad

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