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Live Review: The War On Drugs, Ali Barter

17 December 2014 | 2:46 pm | Chris Familton

The War On Drugs show in Sydney was a little long, but a soild outing.

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From the Oxford Art Factory to two sold-out shows at the Metro Theatre in the space of 11 months is an impressive feat for a band that was operating on the perimeters of indie rock but now finds itself firmly ensconced in its upper echelons.

Ali Barter opened the show with an accomplished set built on her melancholic pop songs and some stirring arrangements and playing from her band. With a mix of synths, dance rhythms and textural guitars they have a sound tailor-made for modern radio with a dash of Lana Del Rey, The Preatures and even a hint of Zola Jesus drama. The band showed they can translate that studio sound to the stage and look like they’re having fun with it.

The War On Drugs reappeared after doing their own stage set-up and, amid a sea of red and blue lighting and copious smoke, they set about transporting the audience into their world of dreamy hypno-rock. As their set ebbed and flowed it became apparent how curious their sound is. A composite of ‘80s Springsteen/U2 and ‘60s Dylan filtered through a dream-pop gauze with subtle rhythmic nods to Suicide and Krautrock. The skill lies in how seamlessly they combine those elements to make their own sound. Adam Granduciel’s voice and guitar were the central focus but the band behind him was just as essential to the performance, which had an uplifting mood – not quite celebratory but there was a feeling of quiet yearning and melancholic determination that the band delivered consummately.

Guitars spiralled and dug deep into psychedelic wanderings while the band surged on like a post-modern E Street Band during Under The Pressure and Red Eyes. A year on the road with these songs has given them more of an edge and at times a muscularity that worked well on the bigger stage. Finishing with a rousing take on Dylan’s Tangled Up In Blue, Granduciel and co finally departed after two hours on stage and though it was half an hour too long they showed they’re a band still riding the wave of their highly successful year.