The Philadelphia-based indie rock band The War on Drugs came home to play the Tower Theatre March 27. Touring in support of their latest critically acclaimed album “Lost In The Dream,” the group kicked off yet another leg of their tour at the storied Upper Darby venue.
The Tower was half empty when opening act The Weather Station took to the stage. The Canadian five-piece group featured two backup singers and sparse arrangements to create a unique sound. By the time their set came to a close, people were streaming into the venue to grab a seat before The War on Drugs came on stage.
At 9 p.m.. on the dot, the headliners took to the stage to a roar of applause. Lead singer and guitarist Adam Granduciel got situated with his many amplifiers and effects pedals before the band launched into the first track off of “Lost In The Dream,” “Under the Pressure.” The piano and saxophone parts in the song are incredible and Robbie Bennett on keyboards and Jon Natchez on saxophone (and later French horn) did not disappoint. It was a great way to start the show.
Following “Under the Pressure” were two older songs, “Baby Missiles” and “Arms Like Boulders.” During the latter song, the house lights came on briefly and you could finally get a sense for just how jam-packed the Tower was. It seemed like it was standing room all the way to even the last row of the rafters.
Granduciel and company did not take their foot off the gas as they launched into “Burning.” The song built and built until drummer Charlie Hall kicked it into overdrive toward the end as Granduciel laid down an awesome guitar solo. Known for his guitar virtuosity, Granduciel certainly did not disappoint. He navigated through the minefield of all of his different guitar pedals and effects switched mid-song with ease. On that note, Graduciel’s guitar tech is the real MVP for keeping all of that equipment working so precisely during each and every song. With most songs he would play these spectacular solos, often times much longer than what was on the album, before giving a slight nod to Hall that signaled the end of the song.
If you’ve listened to any of The War on Drugs’ albums, you would know how dense and layered the band’s sound is. It’s a sound that you might think would not translate well to a live performance in a large venue like the Tower, but you would be so wrong. Having six band members, including Anthony LaMarca on guitar and David Hartley on bass, definitely helps to flesh out the sound of each song. Dense numbers like “An Ocean In Between the Waves” sounded amazing as each came together to create to make the song one of the best of the night.
In addition to the 10 songs on “Lost In The Dream” being played to great effect, some older songs also made their way onto the setlist. “Comin’ Through” from the EP “Dead Weather” opened up the encore and was soon followed up by “Your Love is Calling My Name” off the band’s 2011 album “Slave Ambient.” Before closing the show, Granduciel thanked the crowd and acknowledged that his father was out in the crowd somewhere. Playing a beautiful white and gold Gretsch guitar, the band’s final song was a great rendition of “Buenos Aires Beach” from their 2008 record “Wagonwheel Blues.”
The War on Drugs has become a force nowadays with their fantastic songs and incredible musicianship. It’s great to see a Philly band succeeding on such a grand scale. Be sure to try and see them next time they come to town.