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The War On Drugs & Spoon Serve an Emotional Helping of Old School Rock


Brisbane Riverstage

Tuesday, 9 December 2023

LET'S GET THIS PERFECTLY CLEAR RIGHT FROM THE START, SHALL WESpoon is no support band. As one of this reviewer's all-time favorites, it feels somewhat bewildering to witness one of indie music's greats in a supporting spot, even if their one-hour, fat-free set is utterly bulletproof. Even The War on Drugs’ frontman Adam Granduciel hailed them as "the best band of the last 40 years" during his set. He isn't wrong; the Texan outfit immediately gets to work, twirling this audience around their little finger, satiating fans still bewildered to be witnessing them at twilight while molding the initiated into proper fans one song at a time.

Their outstanding set is nothing short of brilliance—an orchestration of irresistibly catchy tunes executed with precision by a band so cohesive that each note resonates like a finely tuned machine. Frontman Britt Daniel, still in possession of one of rock's great voices—gravelly and with raw authenticity—displays an onstage prowess so genuine that, for a moment, you're forgiven for the awe he inspires, as such performances are rare these days. He captivates entirely from the opening chord strikes of 'The Beast and Dragon, Adored' from 2005's Gimme Fiction. In fact, it's this album that evenly dominates tonight's set with their latest 'Lucifer On The Sofa', each and every song—old or new—triumphantly a classic.

Familiarity reigns as the opening bars of 'The Underdog' take the ignorant by surprise, while 'Do You', 'Rent I Pay', and arguably the band's biggest single 'I Turn My Camera On' unfold one by one. But even the long-converted get a surprise tonight as Daniel reveals a hidden talent—he sounds a LOT like John Lennon. Their cover of the late legend's 'Isolation' probably originated in lockdown and still resonates while shoulder-to-shoulder with a packed Riverstage. Spoon's set tonight is a form of musical perfection that leaves a bedazzled audience lingering in the afterglow, savoring the echoes of a night where the boundaries between performer and observer dissolved into perfect harmony

All photos by Chris Searles - click arrows to scroll through gallery

The War On Drugs is a different kind of band entirely; actually, the pairing of the two groups is curious, to say the least, but Granduciel is evidently a fan of his openers. Elevated lights, sound, and production value for the headliner certainly have their merit, as the group's enormous sound and lighting show made Spoon's previous production feel somewhat like a high school musical by comparison. Their performance is somewhat akin to the unfurling of a sonic tapestry woven with mid-tempo compositions that don't adhere to typical song structures. Instead, they navigate a path through a maze of open-ended emotions. Their crescendos ascend to soaring heights, the feelings not lost on this adoring audience.

That's the thing about this band—those who love The War On Drugs genuinely LOVE this band. Their visible euphoria is expressed through clenched fists to chests, closed eyes pointing heavenward, and an unrestrained, loose-shoulder Dad dance phenomenon. It's evident that The War On Drugs is a classic rock band for those who would never admit to liking classic rock, as well as for inadequate-feeling folk fans. To quote our friend Bernard Zuel, who sums it up perfectly: "It is Dire Straits and Christian years Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd smoking up Bruce Springsteen, Alan Parsons producing Neil Young, Grateful Dead engulfing Bryan Adams (and yes, it hurts to even mention him in this context)." With lengthy songs titled 'An Ocean In Between The Waves,' 'Harmonia's Dream,' and a version of 'Occasional Rain' dedicated to a fan celebrating a birthday, the set is more of a hectic journey through the wilderness—it's long, but it feels good at the end. 'Red Eyes' predictably evokes the most rapturous audience reaction; a few even leave after it's finished. However, the likes of 'I Don't Live Here Anymore' and the "curveball due to ound restrictions," 'Lost In The Dream,' end the show in the most wholesome of ways, with The War On Drugs assured that they can send this many people home with a smile on their face and a lengthy folk-rock anthem in their heart.

All photos by Chris Searles - click arrows to scroll through gallery


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