The Northern Quota

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Review: The War on Drugs at O2 Apollo Manchester

  • American rock group The War on Drugs play two consecutive nights at the O2 Apollo Manchester.
  • NQ's Tom Green attended the second night.

After walking through the doors of the Apollo on Monday night, for the second time in five days, it only took a few moments for me to realise I’d be one of the youngest there.

Having recently released their fourth studio album A Deeper Understanding, American rock group The War on Drugs were in town to round off two consecutive sold out nights at the famous old venue as part of their UK and European tour.

Marrying influences from the likes of Dylan and Springsteen, their calming sound accompanies more thought provoking lyrics about life, love and loss and attracts a more mature following than a lot of the bands I have seen in the past.

But nevertheless I’m here, and I’m hooked – and have been for some time.

Entering the stage to an excited roar, the group kicked off the night, rather unexpectedly, with Come to the City, from their second album A Slave Ambient (2011), to which the crowd stood and swayed gently in the hope of something more recent.

Pain and the slightly more upbeat Holding On, both straight from A Deeper Understanding, came next; receiving much more visible appreciation from the crowd it seemed.

Continuing with more recognisable hits, the beat of Charlie Hall’s drum sliced through the air in a breeze of excitement among the crowd before the rest of the band got stuck into An Ocean in Between the Waves.

Pausing for a few minutes amid the continual swapping of his guitars, lead singer Adam Granduciel took a moment to speak to the crowd, but such is his thick American twang; I’d be lying if I said I could make out every word.

If he made one thing clear, however, it was his and the band’s appreciation of Manchester.

“We’ve been coming here since 2008 and we’ve even got a favourite little café in the city”, he tells us.

What is absolutely mind-blowing about watching The War on Drugs live is witnessing first-hand how they simply breeze through the immensely complicated nature of each track with ease; something which us mere mortals in the crowd could only ever dream of.

The layers upon layers of tricky guitar riffs, thoughtful basslines, licks of the keyboard and harmonica hums in songs very rarely shorter than six minutes in length are nothing less than spectacular.

Throw in Granduciel’s highly intelligent lyrics and intriguing voice and you find yourself embarking on a spine-tingling journey of contemplation; alone worth the £30 ticket fee.

A sea of red light filled the room fittingly enough during the excellent blitz through fan favourite Red Eyes, prompting one of the very few periods of bouncing among the crowd.

In Chains calmed the atmosphere again before a psychedelic mix of pink, yellow and purple blended with the faint shadows of the band on the screen behind them.

A real performance. Goosebumps stuff.

This carried on into Under the Pressure; undoubtedly one of the greatest musical performances I have ever seen.

Marrying ridiculously elongated instrumentals and a distinct drum beat gradually increasing in tempo, it felt as though I’d been taken by the hand and whizzed away to a place I’d never been before.

Nevertheless, I shall return there one day.

An encore of Clean Living, Eyes to the Wind and a cover of Grateful Dead’s Touch of Grey rounded off an excellent gig and an enjoyable evening for all, it seemed.

If you’re not aboard The War on Drugs bus, then get on it quickly.

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