By: Derek Jung
[Full disclosure: I design and send out Madison Theater's weekly email newsletter]
Living in Cincinnati, the weeks leading up to Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee are very exciting because of the number of bands that tour through the Midwest. Philadelphia natives, The War on Drugs, made a stop at Madison Theater in Covington, Kentucky (just across the river from Cincinnati) on their journey to the fabled festival on the farm. I had seen WoD a little over a year ago, not long after their fabulous album, Lost in a Dream, was released. What a year it's been for them since then. The album received numerous accolades including Album of the Year for 2014 on Paste Magazine and Consequence of Sound, appearances on TV, and huge shows at festivals like Coachella.
Bandleader Adam Granducial made it clear that they are far from slowing down. In fact, they sounded even better than they did a year ago. Whether it was the anticipation of the huge Bonnaroo crowds or the familiarity of playing in a city that he admitted to love visiting, the band was in top form, cruising through a smooth 16 song set. Cruising is not usually the most flattering adjective to describe a set, because it implies just going through the motions. This is not the case for The War on Drugs. The band is at their best when they float up and down on the waves and builds that their songs naturally create. On the peak of the waves, Adam’s guitar playing echoed throughout the theater with a power that demanded your attention. Add to the mix Jon Natchez’s saxophone, a wonderful addition to the touring band, and the occasional harmonica from Adam and the result can be best described as an almost religious experience. (Check out “Under Pressure” or “An Ocean In Between the Waves” for two great examples of this from the album)
Not surprisingly, Lost in a Dream, was a large focus; they played every song on the album besides “The Haunting Idle”. They also featuring a number of back catalog gems, including “Arms like Boulders” and “Buenos Aires Beach” from 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues and “Baby Missiles” and “Comin’ Through” from 2010’s Future Weather.
During the five song encore, Bryan Devendorf, drummer for The National and Cincinnati native, came on stage to assist with some extra percussion. Armed with a tambourine in one hand and a shaker in the other, he stayed on stage for two or three songs. While you couldn't hear his contribution very much, it was a unique touch to the set.
The Everymen, a New Jersey punk band featuring a saxophone (I’m a sucker for sax), brought their raw energy to open the show. I really enjoyed their sound, featuring male/female co-vocals, but I think the crowd was expecting something a little more in the vein of WoD. I wasn’t complaining. Check them out.
I was lucky enough to grab a copy of the setlist and a record (the vinyl was sold out last year when I saw them). If you have the chance to see them live, I highly recommend that you do.
Listen to Lost in a Dream on Spotify
Arms Like Boulders
Lost in the Dream
An Ocean in Between the Waves
Eyes to the Wind
Under the Pressure
Come to the City
Black Water Falls
Buenos Aires Beach
I Was There
Suffering (not listed on the setlist)
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: