For its debut ACL taping The War On Drugs lived up to the critical acclaim that’s been showered upon them since their 2011 breakthrough Slave Ambient. Drawing mostly from last year’s Lost in the Dream, widely praised as the Philadelphia band’s best so far, topping critics year-end Best lists, TWOD performed a strong set of its patented blend of spacey psychedelia and classic rock to an adoring audience.
Starting with a hazy synth intro, the sextet eased in “Under the Pressure,” also the first song on Lost in the Dream. Over a driving motorik rhythm, leader Adam Granduciel overlaid Dylanesque vocals and tasteful guitar solos, painting a vibrant picture that coaxes attention instead of demanding it. TWOD worked that formula even more successfully on “Red Eyes,” “Baby Missiles” and the midpoint anthem “An Ocean Between the Waves,” crowd-pleasers all. The band didn’t stick only to that groove, however. “Disappearing” added an almost disco rhythm to the drumming, giving the song its own buoyancy. “Lost in the Dream” and “Eyes to the Wind” worked more dynamic melodies, adding a certain wistfulness to the vibe, even as Granduciel traversed his fretboard. TWOD combined everything into “In Reverse,” the penultimate tune that served as the set’s climax.
Following that peak, the band closed by taking the crowd into the lush green valley of “Suffering,” the cathartic ballad pushing us gently into the good night. Eschewing the Big Rock Finish was the perfect way to bring this stunning, shimmering show to an end. We hope you’ll feel the same when this episode airs this fall on PBS.