August 28, 2011
7th Street Entry
The War On Drugs seemed determined not to let the weekend end quietly Sunday night, treating the 7th Street Entry to a stirring 90-minute set that put the stellar songwriting and deft guitar work of frontman Adam Granduciel on full display. It was a passionate, vibrant performance from the talented quartet out of Philadelphia (which featured Robbie Bennett on keys, Steve Urgo on drums and Dave Hartley on bass), who seemed to only get more bold and exploratory with their sound as the night wore on.
The show opened with a somewhat tentative version of "Best Night," which found the group getting the feel for both the crowd and the room, but the song eventually caught fire at the finish, led by Granduciel's spirited guitar. There was a bit of a problem with the sampler before "Baby Missiles," which I hoped wouldn't derail the song, as it's one of my favorites from their brilliant new record, Slave Ambient. Granduciel jokingly teased that it was the house's cable that was causing the issue, and that, "I take a lot of pride in making sure my shit is not fucked up." After a brief delay (which gave time for Adam to introduce Matt from openers Caveman, who joined them to play drums), the problem was resolved, and the song absolutely soared through the tiny club, sounding glorious on the late summer night.
From there the show really took off, with the Dylan-esque "Comin' Through" flowing smoothly into a rousing version of "I Was There." But it was an exquisite rendition of "Your Love Is Calling My Name," which proved to be one of the clear highlights of the set. Granduciel delivered his impassioned vocals with his eyes tightly closed, clearly feeling the weight of each and every one of his lyrics. And when he stepped away from the microphone for two different blazing guitar solos, the dynamic song really became a thing of beauty, with Hartley adding a muted trumpet flourish as Adam confidently led the song home.
That stunning track dissolved into a drawn-out, discordant coda, which subtly morphed into "Come To The City," another standout from a set that was full of them. Granduciel was clearly feeling the love of the room, continually thanking us for our support, and saying "Minneapolis is beautiful...you're beautiful" all night. Before a boisterous version of "Arms Like Boulders," (which featured Timmy from Caveman on guitar), Adam asked if anyone from their former tourmates the Hold Steady were in the crowd, joking that, "If anyone from the band would be here, it would be Franz Nicolay." But he got serious when he said, "I remember when Wagonwheel Blues came out, Philly liked us, but Minneapolis LOVED us. I haven't forgotten." And the rest of the show seemed to be Granduciel's way of thanking us for the continued support that he has received here.
A heartfelt version of "Buenos Aires Beach" was played after a request was made up front, while the band decided to hastily launch into a lively rendition of "Black Water Falls" before the announced "A Needle In Your Eye #16." But they thankfully still played it, closing the main set with a lengthy, explosive version of "Needle" that showcased Granduciel's prodigious guitar talents (even though his guitar strap fell off mid-song). It was such an incendiary rendition that I felt the band might not return for an encore, but the roars of the crowd wouldn't let up, so they came back out and closed the night with a fervent run through of "It's Your Destiny," which ended the show on a high. On a sleepy Sunday night in Minneapolis, The War On Drugs came into the Entry and confidently delivered one of the shows of the year. Now that is the way to end a weekend.
Critic's Bias: Slave Ambient will most assuredly be in my Top 5 records of the year, but this was my first time seeing the War On Drugs play live.
The Crowd: The Entry was surprisingly not sold-out (only about 3/4 full), but the people that were there clearly loved the band and witnessed a special performance.
Overheard In The Crowd: "The singer looks just like Jimmy Fallon."
Random Notebook Dump: I loved the show so much I even bought a shirt afterwords. But I'm really regretting my decision not to buy a copy of Wagonwheel Blues on vinyl.
I Was There
Your Love Is Calling My Name
Come To The City
Arms Like Boulders
Buenos Aires Beach
Black Water Falls
A Needle In Your Eye #16It's Your Destiny (Encore)
"Like" Gimme Noise on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @gimme_noise.