Live Review & Gallery :: The War On Drugs

November 21st 2012

This year’s Harvest Festival brought a welcome wave of independent acts to Australian shores, and the Oxford Art Factory snatched up a few of the best sideshows – including Philadelphia natives The War On Drugs. Following the release of last year’s kick-start to the heart, Slave Ambient, I was excited to experience the band’s blend of folk, rock and blues firsthand.

Local up-and-comers Good Heavens (featuring Sarah Kelly, formerly of The Red Sun Band and Wolfmother’s original rhythm section) kicked off the night with a set heavy on fuzz and reverb, drawing about them a small crowd of keen-eared patrons and one very enthusiastic dancer. Kelly’s ethereal yet aggressive vocals were a highlight and it was a joy to see Chris Ross behind a bass and keyboard as if it were 2004 all over again.

As 10 o’clock drew closer, so too did the crowd. The previously sparse standing space shrunk rapidly as the War On Drugs’ setup turned spectacle, and without introduction the band tore into Slave Ambient track ‘Brothers’. It was clear from the start that singer/guitarist Adam Granduciel was a force to be reckoned with… guitars were thrashed and pedals were maxed out; the frontman bearinge a striking resemblance to Neil Young at his most furious.

The high level of energy was maintained throughout the night and tracks from the latest release mixed well with those from 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues. The band was tight and gracious, proving that they were more than happy to feed off the audience’s energy and more when a can of VB was handed to bassist Dave Hartley from the crowd and shared between members on stage. Although it was hard to fault the first half of the set, it was undoubtedly the latter that provided the show’s highlights. Slave Ambient closer ‘Black Water Falls’ was placed back to back with album opener ‘Best Night’ which sparked a favourable reaction from fans who were then treated to a specially requested ‘Arms Like Boulders’ and a wonderfully stripped back rendition of ‘Buenos Aires Beach’.

“You guys are wonderful,” Granduciel concluded as the band prepared for one last song. ‘A Needle In Your Eye #16’ was a frenzied and energetic display of rock and roll that seemed to last an age before the War On Drugs left the stage to the sound of buzzing amplifiers and much deserved applause.


The War On Drugs @ Oxford Art Factory on 15.11.12  

Presented by FBi – see more FBi Presents gigs here

All photos by Sam Wotherspoon for FBi



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