The War on Drugs

support Quilt
author BV date 21/05/14 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Finding myself accidentally stumbling upon a potential album of the year candidate by sheer coincidence (with a little help from HES from this very site), I decided that it would indeed be a grave mistake to miss what could potentially be an equally impressive concert experience. Some would argue that spending an entire night indoors would be a pity when the weather is as great as it was last night, but as it turned out I felt entirely comfortable with trading in sunny weather for an evening of atmospheric, introverted and melancholic rock music.

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Tasked with supporting The War on Drugs we had Quilt. - A relatively young quartet whose sound was quite reminiscent of a meeting between Tame Impala, Temples and Morgan Delt. Featuring no less than two lead vocalists, backed by phenomenal vocal harmonies provided by the bass player and the drummer, one could immediately hear that the focus was to be directed at the floating, dreamy psych-pop and ambience provided by the band. One could naturally argue that a set with emphasis on floating psych-pop could border on the harmless – even boring, perhaps. However, Quilt would prove to be anything but boring. Frequently venturing out into lengthy, echo-laden musical excursions that would prove that, in spite of the striking simplicity of the chord progressions, Quilt were indeed handling their instruments as well as they handled their soothing vocals. What they lacked, however, would be a stage presence that could take them beyond those very confines. Granted, they swayed from side to side and occasionally displayed a profound joy of what they were doing whilst they jammed their way through their 40 minute set, however I feel like much of the crowd still seemed remarkably hesitant toward them – as if they weren’t really connecting with the band. As they reached a set highlight with “Eye of the Pearl” I couldn’t help but feel that, in spite of their lack of grasp on the audience, it would be a hell of task to find a better support band for The War on Drugs than Quilt.


The War on Drugs

Finally then, the moment I’d been waiting for since reviewing “Lost in the Dream”. As Adam Granduciel and his five bandmates took the stage in a remarkably anonymous fashion, most people barely seemed to notice that they were actually there. That is, until they opened with immediately forceful, yet slowly building “An Ocean Between the Waves” which, as it continually built up, gradually swayed more and more of the audience. – And that seemed to signify much of the first half of the show. Gradually picking up momentum with tracks like “Baby Missiles” off of 2011’s “Slave Ambient”, Granduciel and his bandmates seemed strangely extrovert for a bunch of supposed introverts. This generated quite decent crowd responses from time to time as Granduciel tried his hand with a classic trick – taking polaroid photos of the crowd (only to then later proclaim these to be the best ones yet, whilst sarcastically remarking; ”I mean, wow, look at the detail… Incredible”).

This, however, proved to be just the right thing to do before launching into the unquestionably biggest hit from Granduciel’s hand yet; “Red Eyes”, which had most, if not all of the room, bouncing around whilst trying to sing along to his Dylan-esque voice that sang inexplicable lyrics – effectively making sure that the only time that the crowd and Granduciel were vocally in sync was during the forceful “Woo!” right before he launched into one of his many, and I do mean many guitar solos of the evening that were made possible by the robotic precision of the drumming which provided such a strong rhythmic foundation. Then came what was, perhaps, my personal highlight of the evening with “Suffering”, a slow-paced song driven by a drowning sense of melancholy and reverb-soaked instruments, dreamy synthesizers and underplayed but extremely precise drumming once more. Under these circumstances I couldn’t help but feel like I’d made the right choice when I chose to go to this very gig when faced with such a stunningly beautiful composition in such a completely alluring live setting.

However, as the concert then continued for what some would probably call an eternity, the joy was diminished somewhat. I can’t decide whether it was the immense heat that could be felt all around Vega or the unexpectedly long concert that finally did me in, but sadly I felt like my focus – as well as several other people’s focus – slowly disappeared for the last 30 minutes of the 2 hour long show, with the notable exception of the track “Brothers” which resulted in a quite uplifting vibe across the room once more. Could the show have been better if the setlist had been perhaps 2-3 songs shorter? Indeed, but it’s a fairly luxurious issue to have when all is said and done. As I then left Vega on this hot May evening, I still felt a great deal of satisfaction from having seen this massively hyped band – but I do believe that I’ll have to experience them again in a setting where I’m expecting the 2 hour onslaught of utter melancholy, shimmering guitar solos and ambient Americana tracks that sound like Dylan flirting with a post-rock or kraut-rock band.

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