For the first time in their long time running concert series, KCRW held an Apogee Studio Session concert on a Saturday. To some, that may seem like an insignificant detail. However, those who’ve attended one of the 73 incredible live performances before would be quick to explain that seeing a band in such an intimate setting can be frustrating when work and responsibilities loom the following day. And with hosts as gracious as those at Apogee, providing free wine, beer, and snacks, it always seemed a shame to not enjoy them to their fullest potential. Thankfully, that all changed when KCRW brought The War on Drugs to Apogee for their live performance this past Saturday, August 5th.
The show started promptly after KCRW’s legendary DJ/Host Jason Bentley gave a warm introduction to the Philadelphia based band. The crowd made up of men and women mostly in their late 30s took a break from sipping craft brews and excellent wine and roared with cheers and whistles as The War on Drugs took the stage. Without any introduction, frontman Adam Granduciel grabbed the mic, gave a quick thanks and began strumming along for the opening of “Pain.” The crowd nodded their heads along with the tune and Granduciel’s furious guitar solo, which is featured on their 4th studio album A Deeper Understanding, out August 25th. From there, the band kept a quick pace, playing “Holding On,” and “Strangest Thing,” two more cuts from the soon to be released album.
As the band settled in, so did the audience. After the first few songs, those lucky enough to attend the live performance began moving and grooving more and more to the music, and their applause matched their dancing fervor. After “Strangest Thing,” Granduciel and crew played a cover of a Warren Zevon song, “Accidentally Like A Martyr.” The tempo had a slower feel than the previous few songs played during the evening, but it felt right at home at Apogee. With such a rich sound and unbelievable acoustics in the intimate setting, fans welcomed the slower and warmer tune.
After playing “An Ocean Between Waves,” the first song of the evening to come from a past album (to which fans responded with raucous applause), Granduciel and Jason Bentley took center stage for a quick interview. The interview dealt mainly with the upcoming album, which those in attendance got the chance to see in physical vinyl form as The War on Drugs had just received their first printed copies. If ever there were a gauge of fandom for the crowd of 60 or so in Santa Monica that evening, it would be how few were on their phones during the interview. While the show itself was the main event, and the interview was but a bonus, the crowd was so enamored with the band and so excited to be finally getting a follow up to Lost in the Dream which came out in 2014, that they couldn’t peel their eyes from the stage.
From there, the band came back to the classics, playing “In Reverse,” “Eyes To The Wind,” and “Lost In A Dream,” in quick succession. Now halfway through the evening, everyone seemed settled in (free drinks could be to blame), and the cheers were all the brighter. War on Drugs also seemed more comfortable, with frontman Granduciel enjoying some quick jokes here and there between songs. After playing another new record, “You Don’t Have To Go,” Granduciel and company sent the crowd off with a stirring rendition of “Under the Pressure.”
During the interview with Bentley, Granduciel mentioned that one of the best parts of being a musician is growing as a live band. While songs live forever in their recorded form, each live performance is an opportunity to learn and experiment. At no point was this better exemplified than in their finale. Though each member of the six piece band played flawlessly throughout the evening, it was during “Under the Pressure” that each achieved a new level of mastery. With the full force of the band blasting through the speakers, the crowd at Apogee was sent home dancing on a beautiful night in Southern California.
Photo Credit: Sharon Alagna