Home Read Albums Of The Week: The War on Drugs | Live Drugs

Albums Of The Week: The War on Drugs | Live Drugs

The Philly rockers’ live set showcases the evolution of their show over the years.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Culled from over 40 hard drives of recorded live shows spread out across years of touring behind multiple critically acclaimed records, Live Drugs is unlike anything previously available in The War on Drugs’ catalog.

The first volume to capture the band’s live interpretations, Live Drugs is a document showcasing the evolution of the band’s live show over the years. Additionally, Live Drugs is a portrait of the enduring relationship between Adam Granduciel and Dominic East. A longtime friend, guitar tech and stage manager, East is Live Drugs’ co-producer and the presence Granduciel credits as holding everything together.

Work on Live Drugs began in late 2018, then fell by the wayside until this past March, when Granduciel stumbled upon the mixes in a Dropbox folder. Inspired to finally finish with fresh ears, Granduciel and East poured through the vaults of live multi-tracks, sending final selections for mixing to Jonathan Low at Aaron Dessner’s Long Pond Studio.

Sequenced to reflect how a typical 70-minute set would flow, Live Drugs thrives on live set staples immortalized on record for the first time. This includes Buenos Aires Beach from the band’s 2008 full-length debut, Wagonwheel Blues, and the longtime musical interlude flowing between Under the Pressure and In Reverse — which bookend 2014’s Lost In The Dream. There’s also their essential cover of Warren Zevon’s Accidentally Like a Martyr — a song “so simple and true, you should ever be lucky to write a song that simple,” Granduciel says.

Also important to Granduciel was showing how years of live performance nurtures an evolution of the songs. For example, an early live version of Strangest Thing, off 2017’s A Deeper Understanding,feels joyfully loose; Granduciel fell in love with this early version while going through the recordings with mental notes of memorable shows. On the last five minutes of the live favorite, Under the Pressure, a crowd of 20,000 people are heard singing along to the extended guitar melody. Or take Eyes to the Wind, the version heard here has grown wholly independent of the version found on Lost in the Dream.

“As a band leader, I always want to know where a song can go,” Granduciel explains. “Even though we’ve recorded it, mastered it, put it out, and been touring on it, it doesn’t mean that we just have to do it the same way forever, for the rest of our lives.” And in that way, Live Drugs is a freeing moment for the band. Now finally captured, these live iterations of the songs feel recontextualized, and subsequently less precious.

“It puts a nice exclamation point on our touring because we’ve memorialized the performances in a way,” Granduciel says. “It feels like it’s kind of a reset, to be able to put something out that’s a really good interpretation of the way we interpret our music live. There’s something cathartic about having all of it printed on a record. Even though this recording is from a year of tours, this is really how these six guys evolved as a band from 2014 to 2019.”