thu 07/12/2023

The War On Drugs, OVO Hydro, Glasgow review - impressive musicianship but a lack of excitement | reviews, news & interviews

The War On Drugs, OVO Hydro, Glasgow review - impressive musicianship but a lack of excitement

The War On Drugs, OVO Hydro, Glasgow review - impressive musicianship but a lack of excitement

The seven piece's lengthy songs became bogged down too often

The War on Drugs were all smilesJimmy Fontaine

War might be good for absolutely nothing, but it does provide bands with some easy names. Before the War on Drugs headline set, Warpaint took to the stage, and despite a muted reaction to the quartet they were on enjoyable form. They’re unlikely to ever be topping the bill in arenas in their own right, but maybe that’s a good thing, and the funky closing double header of “New Song” and “Disco//Very” whipped by with pace and verve.

Then again, the War on Drugs themselves seemed a long shot to become an arena band, even with a sound considerable in scope. Perhaps their booker had over-estimated their drawing power, given that the upper decks of the Glasgow venue were tarped off, and there was plenty of space remaining on the floor. That meant there was an airy, literally chilly atmosphere before Adam Granduciel led his cohorts out, and rather predictably it took time for the gig to warm up.

Time is a rather elastic concept to the seven-piece group, given the number of their songs that are stretched out into jams, a strategy that alternated between thrilling success and tedious failure all night. The musicianship was exemplary throughout, from the totemic beats drummer Charlie Hall laid down, a grin on his face and his hair buffeted by fans, to the stirring saxophone blasts from Jon Natchez. When the latter cut loose late on, during the vibrant pop of “I Don’t Live Here Anymore”, it felt like the whole song was enlivened.

Such moments were needed, for this was a sparse show in terms of any showmanship. Aside from a varied lights display there was nothing visual all night beyond the vivid purple shirt Granduciel was wearing, while his onstage chat tended to be fired out machine gun style, words running together excitedly. “WE’REREALLYGLADTOBEHERE” he stated, and there did an evident enjoyment from the group, whether they were drawing out the hazy “Harmonia’s Dream” into blissful noise or propelling the synths of “I Don’t Wanna Wait”.

Yet no matter the quality of the musicians or the pleasure of the band themselves, there was also the matter of the songs. At their worst they carried all the excess of a Roman orgy with none of the eventual satisfaction, just a parade of guitar solos and melodies trying to soar while middle aged men looked and each other and nodded their heads, presumably acknowledging that this was authentic, real music.

It was dull all too often, from the wannabee Springsteen tone of “Oceans of Darkness” to Granduciel bellowing out “who are ya” during the forgettable rock of “Victim, as if he’d wandered off to the football. There was a need there to change the pace, but exceptions to the formula were rare in a set that went past the two hour mark. So for every bop like “Red Eyes” there was also an “Occasional Rain”, which slowed the gig down near the climax.

Naturally it peaked during a rendition of “Under the Pressure” that clocked double figures in minutes, and went from a propulsive Kraftwerk meets Dire Straits tune into a legitimate party anthem, bodies all moving to the beat. Equally naturally, the gig kept going after that, and by the time a melodic cover of “Strange Boat” by the Waterboys concluded matters the euphoria had been allowed to subside yet again.

They carried all the excess of a Roman orgy with none of the eventual satisfaction

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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