The War On Drugs played a sell-out show at Bristol’s O2 Academy on Thursday night, and it was refreshing to see such an abundance of different ages file through the door to watch them grace the stage. The intimate venue accommodated well for their dreamy, pensive sound, and in return they painted its interior with an enriching ambiance.

Bursting into to life with Burning, the eruption of anthemic guitar riffs and keyboards created an undeniably optimistic and uplifting atmosphere. Despite being a band who thrive in the studio due to the technicality of their music, frontman Adam Granduciel’s voice possesses a rawness that flourishes in a live environment, and the multitude of different instruments make for an exhilarating atmosphere. The concoction of sound has a somewhat overwhelming impact, which is perhaps not to everyone’s taste  –  but to their fans, the fabrication of different sounds is what characterises their music as both refreshing and innovative.

Granduciel seemed to cast a spell over the audience, who appeared mesmerised by his effortless vocal and his dedication to completely immerse himself in his earnest prose.  Even the darkest of lyrics refrained from casting a shadow upon the mood of the spectators; An Ocean In Between the Waves and In Reverse perfectly paraded the soulful and lenient tones of his voice.

Playing songs from three of their albums, their choice of tracks perfectly illustrated not only their versatility and growth over the years, but also their intention to remain in close proximity to their initial sound, and its seems, their fans thank them for it. To some, the reoccurring themes of their music may incur boredom, but for others it is a sound that can never be exhausted. Under The Pressure weighs in at nearly nine minutes long, yet it was not at all tedious live, instead it was fascinating to see the instrumental parts fuse together in front of your eyes.

The most memorable part of the night was perhaps the playing of Red Eyes, which has undeniably become the crowning glory of their latest album Lost In The Dream. It seemed that the invigorating guitar solo and echoing synthesisers stirred the crowd from their wonder-struck daze. This would have sufficed as a fitting ending to the set – however, the band instead finished with Eyes to the Wind, a slower and more subdued note to end on, but one that no less illustrated their ability to captivate the audience.

Of course, the band returned to the stage to satisfy with an encore, which featured a commendable cover of George Harrison’s Beware of Darkness, alongside Baby Missiles from their 2010 release Future Weather. They concluded with Suffering from their latest album, a slightly underwhelming track to finish on – but the overall impact of their show, made a lasting impression.

Undoubtedly, The War On Drug’s greatest flair is their ability to entertain without the need to constantly enthral the audience with gimmicks and one-liners; it is evident that when they come together they are able to create something magical. The reoccurring connotations of dreams and wonder sewn into their songs are also reflected in their live performances and the atmosphere they are able to create. They possess the rare ability of being able to produce nostalgic, Americana rock and present it in a way that is entirely original– it is different and exciting, and makes for a fascinating live performance. Perhaps they will never be a band who dominates, but they are certainly one who remains true to themselves, and that, counts for a whole lot more in today’s industry.


Set list: 

1. Burning 

2. Arms like Boulders 

3. Under the Pressure 

4. In reverse

5. An Ocean in Between The Waves

6. Disappearing 

7. Come to the City 

8. Best Night 

9. Buenos Aires Beach 

10. Red Eyes

11. Eyes to the Wind 


12. Beware of Darkness (George Harrison cover) 

13. Baby Missiles 

14. Suffering