Winning the War on Drugs

August 22nd, 2011

The War on Drugs – Mercury Lounge – August 20, 2011

The War on Drugs is a losing battle. People will get high if they so desire. No government enforcement can stop production, dispersal and use. It’s the classic “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Much in a similar vein, rock and roll music persists, despite years of push back and upheaval. Its conduit, the electric guitar, continues to be a tool for exploration and its rhythms maintain their allure. So what better name for a rock band that channels vitality than the War on Drugs.

Bringing their curious name and burgeoning reputation, the War on Drugs played to a sold-out crowd on Saturday night at Mercury Lounge. Credit must be given to the group’s new album, Slave Ambient, released last week and receiving a ton of good press. Many in the audience appeared to know the material, which took up the bulk of the set list.

Their sound, distinctly rooted in the kind of Americana practiced and perfected by Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, filled the venue, reverberating and echoing off the walls. From the show opener “Best Night” to the wonderfully anthemic “Come to the City,” the songs sounded fuller, deeper and more rhythmic than the studio versions. Guitarist and vocalist Adam Granduciel’s talent showed with his unfaltering delivery. And when he graciously noted that Mercury Lounge is his favorite venue to play in all of New York City, it felt genuine. No need to pander when you’re unstoppable. —Jared Levy