The War On Drugs

The Barrowlands, Glasgow

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Mark McLaughlin

three stars

When Adam Granduciel last visited Scotland he asked for some advice on the lingo, and got a lesson in local tribalism instead.

“Is it Edin-burra or Edin-borrow,” he asked at The War On Drugs’s underwhelming Usher Hall gig in 2015.

“It’s Embra,” came the response from the audience. “But Glesga’s better.”

Granduciel put this to the test in the band’s two night stint at the Barrowlands, and found a much warmer welcome. While Embra fans shuffled along politely, Glesga fans greeted his middle-of-the-road guitar rock with their signature gusto.

The Usher Hall was marred by poor sound, a common complaint in the capital’s cavernous concert hall, but the band had no excuses with the Barras’ tip-top ballroom acoustics.

However, the trouble with TWOD live is there is too much going on at the same level. Dual guitars melt into a wash of keyboards and brass, while Granduciel mumbles inaudibly amongst it all which is a shame as he has a fine voice.

At their best, TWOD sound like Division Bell era Floyd, with virtuoso guitar and euphoric soundscapes, and the “whoop” that announces the solo in Red Eyes is worth the ticket price alone, as the crowd gamely demonstrated by chanting along to one of Granduciel’s most distinctive licks — “nanana-nananaaaa”.

But too many of their tracks drift along or end abruptly as if the guitar shredding censor has pulled the plug. Most of the Barras crowd didn’t seem to notice, or care, cheering on Jon Natchez extended two-note baritone sax solo in Under The Pressure with their trademark: “Here we f***in’ go.”

For The War On Drugs, Glesga is definitely better — but only just.