The only war on drugs that’s ever going to be useful, Philadelphia’s War On Drugs, will return to Australia and New Zealand in December, after a five year absence.
During that time they released the albums A Deeper Understanding in 2017 and a year later, I Don’t Live Here Anymore.
Most of the shows this year will be outdoors, some of the activity will be inside your head. Whether you’re on drugs or not, expect thrilling soundscapes, classic and not-so-classic rock tropes, and hair.
Almost exactly a decade before these shows, on the 2014 tour, someone got to see them for the first time in the company of some very excited people, and got a tad excited himself.
THE WAR ON DRUGS
Metro, Sydney, December 13, 2014 IF YOU HAD COME ACROSS anyone heading to this gig in the past few weeks – identifiable by their excited jibbering and semi-glazed eyes of memories evoked and bliss anticipated - it would have been clear that The War On Drugs bring the devotion.
On record and, at the beginning of this year, on stages at festivals and small rooms in Australia the band have inspired the kind of hushed reverence that can pull fringe dwellers in or leave you suspecting the Kool-Aid has been imbibed heavily.
Only casually acquainted with them ‘til now I had thought, to borrow from Tim Rice/Mary Magdalene, that yes, they were good but really they're just a band and we've seen so many bands before. How wrong I was. After 90 compelling, almost spiritual, minutes I had emptied the Kool-Aid drum and was looking for seconds.
The War On Drugs are a psychedelic band without the distortion of phased sounds and blurred shapes, and a rock band without any ponderous heaviness. Instead, they lift you with subtle power and focused drive that pulls your body towards them rather than pounds you into place.
They are a guitar band without a limit to their imagination and a solo-heavy band without posturing who thrill with sustained evocations of what can only be described as beauty that pulls your heart towards them rather than shouts “look at me, aren’t I clever?”.
They create dreamscapes without the languor, can ride emotion without feeling they are milking it and can rise gloriously without contrivance. There were more than a few occasions when the build-build-soar moments were as exhilarating as any House DJ bringing on the peak. Beatific grins split faces, hands were in the air, and we really, really did care.
If you picture the offspring of Wilco and My Morning Jacket, with a similar self-effacing side to their genius, you will have some sense of this. The War On Drugs have the songs, they have the presence and best of all, on this night at least, they had some undefinable spirit that puts both songs and presence into another sphere.
The War On Drugs, with Spoon and Indigo Sparke, will play:
Anderson Park, Wellington, December 1
Spark Arena, Auckland, December 2
Sydney Opera House Forecourt, December 4
Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne, December 7
Riverstage, Brisbane, December 9
Kings Park, Perth, December 11
Tickets on sale May 26.