On Wednesday, September 17th, , The War on Drugs had Columbus, Ohio’s Newport Music Hall packed to the brim for the band’s sold-out show in the capital city. As the stage lights turned blue, the crowd swayed to “My Back Pages” by The Byrds, transporting everyone to a past era of music. It’s a feeling that only The War on Drugs can deliver in this day and age. As the band came onstage, they launched into their first song of the night, “Burning,” from their 2014 release Lost in the Dream. The first chord front man Adam Granduciel played breathed life into the crowd. The real connection between the band and the audience continued to be a source of joy throughout the show.The War on Drugs upped the energy with a spirited jam session that led into their second song “Baby Missiles.” Granduciel subtly leads with his solos, but perfectly integrates them into the rest of the song so they’re not overbearing, but a pleasure. What made Baby Missiles stand out in an extraordinary show was Granduciel’s first time pulling out his harmonica. The song was already effervescent, and the harmonica elevated it to the next level. It reminded everyone of how versatile this band really is; from the “Tom Petty goes synth” vibe, the harmonica swiveled the mood immediately into something closer to “Bob Dylan coffee shop.” The War on Drugs designs their show to take the audience on a journey through their matchless sound, and the crowd could not have been happier.
Tying the show together were the band’s transitions. Using a myriad number of instruments, they seamlessly flowed from one song to the next. “Under the Pressure” was just downright groovy, with a bold underlying line of steady bass clarinet. The bass clarinet was switched out for a French horn during “An Ocean between the Waves,” which lived up to its name by sending waves of intense riffs rippling through the crowd.
When they heard the beginning notes for “Red Eyes,” the single off of Lost in the Dream, the audience erupted into coordinated head bobbing and fist pumping for the most crowd-pleasing song of the set. As concertgoers sang in unison, a sense of camaraderie swept over The Newport. Every single person in the sold-out house was going to the same place and they were more than willing to let The War on Drugs take them there.
As the show closed with an encore of “Lost in the Dream,” I felt myself savoring every word sung, every note played on each instrument. The commitment and energy The War on Drugs brought to Columbus made for arguably one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while. With their dedication to pleasing the crowd and their distinctive synth rock/folk sound, The War on Drugs puts on a show that you’ll find yourself smiling about for days to come