The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a blizzard that dropped nearly a foot of snow over New York could certainly put a large damper on war on drugs‘the biggest concert ever in the five boroughs – but despite those obstacles, an impressive crowd witnessed the group’s debut at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Indeed, the Philadelphia band’s 130-minute, 18-song performance in many ways provided a refreshing composite picture of the state of rock in circa 2022. Beyond the ruffled and blown hair patterned flywheel by drummer Charlie Hall and an elegant light show, with little, if any, flickering. Instead, the War on Drugs delivered a melodious back-and-forth, powerful melodies and powerful musical abilities clearly rooted in the teachings of Dylan, Springsteen, Petty, and Knopfler. The band’s unflinching love for these handsome men is a big reason why their music connects and why the group is still finding new fans after 15 years of their career.
On a night that came as no surprise to see a thinner than usual crowd arrive for the world’s most famous arena, more than 10,000 people defied the elements to see the Drugs in action. Frontman Adam Granduciel admitted on stage that he and his bandmates expected them to play with 800 people on stage. He later joked about crying in the Madison Square Garden locker room during the performance, like an athlete who needs an ice bath and stretch before returning for overtime.
There may have been some initial confusion, as the group required a few songs to get some momentum going, but they caught fire with an uplifting guitar solo on the roof in “An Ocean in between the Waves”, from 2014’s breakout album “Lost in the Dream.” Of the seven songs performed from last year “I don’t live here anymore,The most enjoyable exploration loops (“Victim”, nuanced “How Soon Is Now” by Smiths) and drum machine atmosphere (“I Don’t Wanna Wait”), resist end up having to reach out too often for the ‘reliable six-chain hero’ Pill.
Backed by Hall, bassist Dave Hartley, keyboardist Robbie Bennett and multi-instrumentalists Anthony LaMarca, Jon Natchez and Eliza Hardy Jones, Granduciel thanked key members of the big War on Drugs family including manager Ami Spishock (birthday is just hours away), marketing director of Secretly Group/new parent company Hannah Carlen and, on the more intimate show “Sometimes Rain”, friend longtime Mike Block, who is not actually in the band but has played lead guitar in the studio on several tracks of the new album.
The feeling of living in a larger genre of rock and roll was felt throughout the evening, especially at highlights like “Under Pressure” (Granduciel dropped to his knees as the sound waves slowly decayed) in the MSG rafters), “I’m not Live Here Anymore” and “Burning,” a descendant of “Dancing in the Dark” dedicated to Granduciel’s father.
The power of the band’s music removed the need for elaborate visuals. Lines of thin, vertical LEDs twinkled and swayed behind the group, and strips of lights on either side of the stage covered in purple and gold for the artists at the right times. The scheme shifts to white triangles in the encore’s first song, “Thinking of a Place”, emphasizing the perpetually out-of-reach dreams at the heart of its story.
If the characters in Granduciel’s songs often struggle with the impermanence of life-forming moments, it’s always welcome to pursue them, especially on a stage as big as Madison Square Garden . In songs like “Harmoniac’s Dream” (“It’s hard to find a friend these days”) and “Living Proof” (“I know the pain you’re feeling / I’ve gotten to the place you’ve been trying to Escape from”) “), the music of War On Drugs proved thoughtful in a way that made many of its contemporaries inescapable.Amid a world cluttered with extraneous noises, it’s a currency that has value.
Here is the set list of the War on Drugs:
The ocean between the waves
I don’t want to wait
The strangest thing
Your love is calling my name
Come to City.
I don’t live here anymore
Thinking about a place
https://variety.com/2022/music/reviews/the-war-on-drugs-madison-square-garden-concert-review-1235167176/ The Drug War at Madison Square Garden: Concert Review