The War On Drugs at 3Arena Dublin – April 14th 2022

The War on Drugs brought their ‘I Don’t Live Here Anymore’ tour to the 3Arena last week – a gig that promised much, and delivered that and so much more.

There is a keen sense of anticipation as the venue gradually begins to fill, and the early birds that eagerly make it to the venue are rewarded with an impressive performance from support band Lo Moon. The Los Angeles based group grab the attention immediately with Carried Away the opening track from their new album ‘A Modern Life’ – their sound is extremely polished, but also hugely engaging.

Matt Lowell is highly assured frontman, with definite Lindsay Buckingham vibes to him and even the stage invasion of a fly mid-song doesn’t derail him, and he is quick to make a gentle quip about Bono.

On the evidence of tonight’s set ‘A Modern Life’ is an album well worth checking out, with the band delivering a set packed full of delightful licks, ’80s synths and effects, with a rhythm section that is wonderfully eclectic in the very best way, especially on Expectations and The Dream Never Dies. Their set is brought to a glorious conclusion with their very first single Loveless, and the promise to come back and tour Ireland.

It’s then time for The War on Drugs and it’s as if the audience and band alike have been yearning for an occasion such as this, with the opening heart-aching piano line and lonesome twang of guitar from Old Skin greeted with a rapturous response.

Following the opening number it’s clear that the Philadelphia rockers’ frontman Adam Granduciel is almost giddy at the opportunity as he says “to play a proper gig in Dublin after all these years”. He stands bestride his extensive peddle board which at times looks like a space glider given the dazzling stage lighting (more of that anon), which is used to powerful effect as he let’s rip on Pain.

Given that The War on Drugs produce the music of a million heartbreaks it’s amazing how uplifting their songs are, which is only amplified by their live performance. The band are sonically majestic, with a vim and vigour that infects each other and the crowd, the E-Street band at their best springs to mind with Granduciel conducting them with his elongated power chords and riffs – at times it’s feral, at others almost orchestral, but always compelling. Early highlights include An Ocean in Between the Waves with it’s rolling drum intro, and the elegant I Don’t Wanna Wait.

And whilst the sound of The War on Drugs doesn’t need a showy stage show, that is exactly what we get with an epic lighting design that never settles on any standard patterns – there’s superb use of shadow as the atmosphere builds, before exploding into an electric ballroom palette of blues, greens and pinks, later there’s an almost endless stunning shimmering shower of colour, curtains of white light, and even mystic rainbows of mist – it’s absolutely breathtaking, and serves to heighten the proceedings.

The main set climaxes with the outstanding double-whammy of Under Pressure and I Don’t Live Here Anymore, the former is an exceptional track and magnificently delights and undulates from it’s intriguing intro to the humming reverb buzz of the outro. Returning for a three song encore pushes the set well over the 2 hour mark, and breaking into a sublime cover version of The Waterboy’s classic – A Pagan Place seals the final appreciative endorsement from a packed 3Arena on a stellar night.

There may be a perception amongst some that The War on Drugs are pervaders of run-of-the-mill “dad-rock” but for anyone that sees them on this tour that notion will be utterly blown away.