The War on Drugs Stage AE

By | June 14, 2015


Sometimes, less is more.  Sometimes, more is more.  Don’t forget about addition by subtract.  Michael Scott thinks that’s impossible, but me, I’m not so sure.  In the case of The War on Drugs June 9th show at Stage AE Pittsburgh, all cliches are true.

Going into the show, I had one major concern.   I feared that their performance was going to be much like their “Lost in a Dream” album – full of highs and lows.

I loved “Lost in a Dream.”  Well, actually I liked most of “Lost in a Dream.”  I was turned on to the band through Slacker Radio when “Slave Ambient” was making the rounds, and I was pleased overall with the tunes and the vibe.  The lack of standout tracks for me made the album quickly forgettable.

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“Lost in a Dream” was different.  I was so into Red Eyes for months when the track was released but heard nothing else from the album until, seemingly simultaneously, I heard Under the Pressure and An Ocean in Between the Waves.  Wow and wow.  Then Amazon Prime Music released the entire album.

The album is the tale of two sides as five tracks are high energy standouts and five others are painfully low, slow and, at times, tedious to listen too.  The concert, sadly, was the same.  I was so pumped and hopeful thinking that the critically-adored group would gather the highest of the highs from their 3 LPs and 1 EP to put together a set list that was solid from top to bottom.   This would not be the case.

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What I, and the rest of the Stage AE crowd, were treated to was a rather bipolar show.  The good songs were furiously energetic showcases that induced head bobbing throughout the crowd.  Under the Pressure was surely the zenith of the set as the band played for a solid 10-minute jam.  The standouts from the album were the standouts during the show.  They never felt long or stretched.  I wanted more of each.  The other songs just missed the same emotionality and energy I look for in a live show.  I caught myself looking at my watch wondering when the show would end.

By the encore, I had seen what I wanted to see.  I had heard what I wanted to hear.  I hoped there would be a novel cover song dug out for the crowd, but alas, more of the same – long, droning tracks with Granduciel’s not-so-subtle Dylan-influenced tone and phrasing becoming even more exaggerated.  I banked on a song or two before the “Good night Pittsburghs,” but five songs later they were still at it.

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This leads me back to my original declarations.  Sometimes less is more like when you cut the set list short to increase the quality and concentration of the show.  Sometimes more is more when you have the crowd in the palm of your hand like during Under the Pressure.  You had us on the journey – show us what else you had in store.

Luckily, the strength of the up tempo tracks did enough to compensate for the down tempo stuff.

Consume.Review.Repeat. gives The War on Drugs at Stage AE 5.5 Maggie’s Farms out of 10.

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