Live Review: The War on Drugs; Mike Watt Vs. Ty Segall tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:55 pm September 25, 2014
The War on Drugs at The Waiting Room, Sept. 24, 2014.

The War on Drugs at The Waiting Room, Sept. 24, 2014.

by Tim McMahan,

After catching the last couple songs by opener Califone (stunning) I wondered if I picked the wrong show. Surely Chvrches was going to be an audio/visual spectacle, a big-barn light show with plenty of compressed zings and a cooing frontwoman and lots and lots of young folks getting “into the groove.” Whereas The War on Drugs’ crowd was what I imaged it would be — a sausage party of music geeks like myself who know a good song when they hear it and want to see if the band can pull it off live.

That can mean a rather boring show — a handful of musicians on stage standing around playing their songs exactly as they sound on the record, with not much to see except hunched shoulders and contorted faces gripped in concentration, as opposed to Chvrches’ playground ride.

War on Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel.

War on Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel.

The band strolled on stage a little after 10, frontman Adam Granduciel looking like (as one social media comment put it), a young Ronnie James Dio with his shaggy, saggy long hair and denim jacket over T–shirt. Granduciel is the epitome of ’70s/’80s rock, from his appearance to his music, which despite modern flourishes really is a throwback to a time when people listened to songs for the melodies rather than the vibe.

TWOD’s appeal comes from its soaring guitar lines (reminiscent of ’80s New Wave pop), unobtrusive keyboard lines, Granduciel’s nasal Dylan-styled vocals and (most importantly) Charlie Hall’s straight-forward rock-n-roll drumming so rife with backbeat, so obvious that you can’t help but nod your head to it. Hall’s style is so crisp you could mistake it for a drum machine, keeping the most amorphous songs pumping away. In fact, half the tunes began with long, winding guitar drones or keyboards that laid flat until Hall kicked them into gear.

I tapped down a note during one particularly long high-throttle session, where the guitars were doing some back-and-forth after the melody was over: “Allman Brothers meets Dire Straits.” TWOD sounds like neither of course, instead capturing the spirit of both bands thanks to the guitar interplay and the rhythm section. At other times I was reminded of Jim James and My Morning Jacket. Then there’s the whole Dylan thing.

Throughout the set Granduciel teased that he was going to play his cover of “Tangled Up in Blue” at some point in the evening. “I’m going to try it without the lyric sheet tonight,” he grinned. But after an hour it was obvious he wasn’t going to play the Dylan chestnut until either very late in the set or during an encore. And believe it or not, some of us had to work the next morning.

So. On and on. You reach a point where you say to yourself, “I got it. These guys aren’t going to do anything different than what I’ve seen and heard for the past hour. I’ve heard my favorite songs. Why am I still here?

I waited through two more soaring numbers (including a chomping version of “Red Eyes”) before I gave up the ghost. About 15 minutes after I got home someone posted on Facebook “Tangled Up in Blue!” Well. It’s not as if that was the reason I bought a ticket to the show in the first place.

The War on Drugs is a band destined to do more than the tiny little indie-rock world can provide. They have a style and sound destined for arenas, if Granduciel can write a breakthrough record. No doubt Lost in the Dream was a breakthrough from an indie point of view, but he’ll need something bigger to get to the next level, something the crowd can sing along to. Or he could get caught in the endless indie morpheus loop, putting out record after record after record, each one well respected, forever nurturing a small-but-strong following. Or they could become this generation’s Counting Crows. I don’t know which fate is worse. Here’s hoping they become this generation’s Arcade Fire, growing to arena proportions, taking a different path every time out.

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Ty Segall’s new record, Manipulator, is a slick garage rock album with the usual psychedelic sheen, great guitars and an abundance of simple songs. This is Segall’s most pop-friendly set to date. Could he be the next Jack White (Well, I certainly like Segall’s music more).

Live, Segall brings a wall-of-sound approach to his rock concerts and I have no doubt he’ll do it again tonight at The Waiting Room. In addition to mighty guitar licks, expect a selection from the new album along with some back catalog faves. In addition, Segall has been known to pull out a handful of covers during a set. At his Chicago show Tuesday night he tossed in three Bowie songs (including “Queen Bitch”), according to $15, 9 p.m.

Mike Watt’s latest effort, Il Sogno Del Marinaio, is another in a series of experimental projects by the Minutemen bassist that leans closer to improvisational jazz and beat poetry than rock. Still, the man is legend. At Slowdown Jr., $13, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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