The War on Drugs • February 19, 2022 • The Union
Reviewed and Photographed by Justin Hicken
“We love playing Salt Lake City!…and a special shout out to Dale Murphy and his historic game in 1989…wherever he may be,” voiced Adam Granduciel – frontman of The War on Drugs. The reference was very obscure yet cool. Despite Murphy playing his entire MLB career with the Atlanta Braves, Granduciel knew that he had Utah ties, and does indeed currently live in Alpine, Utah. The reference was to a particular game in 1989 where Murphy hit two home runs in one inning.
A practically sold-out crowd at The Union Event Center showed how thirsty Utah was for some Live Drugs. It had been about four and half years since the band last played Salt Lake City (October 2017). And with the recent release of the group’s newest record, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, there were plenty of new jams to enjoy.
The band took the stage to a thunderous roar of applause and jumped right into a new track “Old Skin” as their opener. A couple of more familiar show staples “Pain” and “An Ocean Between The Waves” rounded out the first three jams. Although the band had been playing the new tracks live for only a few weeks, they seemed comfortable and loose that night. Especially with the addition of a new touring member on keys and vocals, Eliza Hardy Jones.
“Step into house Jones for five minutes…I dare you!”, shouted Granduciel between songs as he introduced the band members. Dave Hartley (bass, backing vocals), Anthony Lamarca (guitar, keys, backing vocals), Jon Natchez (sax, keys, horns) Robbie Bennett (keys), and Charlie Hall (drums) round out the rest of the band.
If you were to take a peek at the stage before The War on Drugs goes on to perform, you might be shocked at how many pedals Granduceil has set up around his space. It’s truly almost a full horseshoe shape full of pedals and gears. Granduciel is a master of his craft and prides himself in getting every sound just the way he wants it. It’s a different experience watching him make all of the different adjustments with the pedals mid-show and even mid-song with his feet and sometimes even with his hands.
As somebody who has traveled to see The War on Drugs in many different cities, one thing I really love about the band is that every show is different. From one night to the next, even in different towns and venues, the show and set will always be different. With a catalog that is now very deep, the band does a great job mixing up their sets. They’re also good at taking requests and calling audibles.
Midway through the set, The War on Drugs dove into some deep tracks from a 10+ year old record Slave Ambient. “Brothers” and “Come to the City” followed up with a rarity from the Lost in The Dream record “Disappearing”. “We used to play some of these over at Kilby Court. Then go make a campfire for the rest of the night,” Granduciel reminisced.
One song that you can always count on hearing at a TWOD concert, other than “Red Eyes”, is the amazing masterpiece that is “Under The Pressure”. If I could choose one song from an artist or group to experience live it would be this one. There’s something about the ride. From the slow build in the intro to the clicking of the synth as the lights face towards the heavens, to the pinnacle of Charlie’s drums releasing at the climax of the song that just makes it one of the most unique experiences in all of live music. As usual, the band nailed the song that night. With a little time after (The band was very conscious of a strict curfew), TWOD was able to play the very lengthy and mellow fan favorite “Thinking of a Place”.
Although Granduciel said that “Occasional Rain” would be their last song, finishing with about 7 minutes before curfew they jumped into a healthy and upbeat “Burning” to wrap up the show. If you missed The War on Drugs show in Salt Lake, they’ll be touring the midwest later this summer. And hopefully, they’ll come back to Utah very soon.
An Ocean in Between
I Don’t Want To Wait
Come to the City
I Don’t Live Here Anymore
Under The Pressure
Thinking of A Place
Lost in the Dream
Eyes to the Wind