The War on Drugs: Live Last Night

Live Last Night

The War on Drugs made one of 2008's best albums, "Wagonwheel Blues," a cloudy roadtrip record that succeeded in large part thanks to a low-key, home-recording vibe. But "cloudy" and "home-recording vibe" don't always translate well to a live setting, so the Philadelphia trio went with the always-reliable Plan B - turn up and rock out. For 45 droning, feedback-drenched minutes at the Rock and Roll Hotel Wednesday night the band turned weary meditations into sonic assaults that showcased the adaptability of both the band and its songs.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Singer/guitarist Adam Granduciel used an acoustic guitar - albeit one that spewed screeching fuzz - on songs such as "Arms Like Boulders" and "Buenos Aires Beach," helping them maintain a bit of their rustic feel. But if Springsteen and Dylan (especially the latter's syllable-stretching vocal tendencies) are touchstones on record, the mind-numbing repetition of Spacemen 3 was a more apt live comparison.

Mike Zanghi's dynamic drumming was what brought these songs roaring to life. The sampler that provided many of the beats on "Wagonwheel" was present Wednesday but took a decided backseat to Zanghi's rumbling rhythms that kept extended jams "Show Me the Coast" and "Needle In Your Eye" entrancing throughout.

The performance ended with "Barrel of Batteries," which on the album is a hushed, solo acoustic ditty. On Wednesday, Granduciel strapped on an electric guitar and the band ripped into a ferocious, amped-up version that barely resembled its recorded counterpart. Zanghi and bassist David Hartley locked in on a simple groove, Granduciel let his guitar squeal, and it sounded like the only way the song should ever be played.

--DAVID MALITZ

By David Malitz |  May 14, 2009; 4:49 PM ET Live Last Night
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