1 of 2
Courtesy of Dustin Condren
2 of 2
The War on Drugs - "Red Eyes"
By Jonas Weir
Cliché alert: The War on Drugs return to Mojo’s in Columbia was nothing but triumphant.
When the Philadelphia-based band played Mojo’s in November 2011, Adam Granduciel, the lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter, had just released a full-length album that finally nailed down the band’s sound. Slave Ambient was a sea change away from Wagon Wheel Blues—the band’s first full-length offering. The band had transitioned from Bob Dylan revivalists to a unique entity that would draw comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and a slew of other heartland rockers. I think the Traveling Wilburys likening is most apt.
But the band was still on the fringes of success. Nonetheless, they put on a great show, surprising unknowing regular concert goers and earning their place as a Columbia favorite.
Apparently, Adam and the group liked Columbia just as much as the town liked them. The band decided to return on April 10, 2014, to promote their recently released masterpiece Lost in a Dream. And that’s not hyperbole; it’s a career defining album that is certainly taking the band to new heights.
While Lost in a Dream is earning universal critical praise and the band is selling out shows at clubs that hold more than a thousand people, Adam made a point to stop at Mojo’s in Columbia—a three hundred person venue in the far and away smallest city on the tour. Not only did Adam Granduciel decline to play in Kansas City or St. Louis in favor of Columbia, but the band also drove from Tucson, Arizona, to get there. The band gave a joyous, loud, and all around amazing performance. This time more than twice as many people turned out.
A few things have changed in the three years since the War on Drugs played Columbia. To start, the band is now a well-oiled machine. I’m not sure if Adam is stronger guitar player or if he just likes to jam more, but almost every song unfurled into some intricate, sonically captivating noodling. Another thing to note is that while Lost in a Dream sounds very polished, the band does an excellent job of recreating that sound live—a feat difficult for most bands that take advantage of studio enrichment.
The set was nothing short of epic. Each song held its own, from the Lost in a Dream favorites to the early album deep cuts. Late in the set, they even played “Buenos Aires Beach,” a track from the 2008 EP Barrel of Batteries. And after many bouts of comical stage banter, a quick smoke break for Adam, and too many songs to count, The War on Drugs said goodnight. When all was said and done, they had played for two and a half hours—a jaw-dropping marathon that is rarely seen.
It was truly a treat for Mid-Missouri. A show like that only comes to Columbia every few years. So here’s hoping Adam Granduciel continues to keep Columbia in mind and that Missouri continues to show the War on Drugs the warmth and hospitality they deserve.