The War On Drugs Warms Up A Frigid Evening

Vortex Music Magazine

On Wednesday, December 3, the sedately intense psychedelic rockers from Philly kicked off the annual December to Remember concert series with Portland garage rockers Summer Cannibals. Photos by Ronit Fahl

On night one of 94.7 FM KNRK's 10th annual December to Remember showcase, The War On Drugs brought 90 minutes of slow-burning bliss to a sold-out Crystal Ballroom.

Jon Natchez—click to see an entire gallery of photos by Ronit FahlJon Natchez—click to see an entire gallery of photos by Ronit Fahl

The heavy Springsteen vibes were supplemented by healthy doses of sax (baritone, no less) and flugelhorn provided by Jon Natchez (formerly of Beirut), all of which combined to encourage hair to be let loose and incite bodies to unmistakably meander and sway from side to side, both onstage and off.

The guitars and keys wailed and droned beautifully while clacking hi-hats and toms kept a steady pace as the jams were allowed to find their natural paths. The feeling was no better exemplified by the lyrics of "In Reverse" when frontman Adam Granduciel sang, "Callin' out your name in the darkness." And as one song flowed into another, "An Ocean In Between The Waves" (below), with its piercing harmonica breaking through the fog like a train whistle on a cold and gloomy night, followed as the band verged on the midway point of Wednesday's night set. It was moments like these that made you want to fall to your knees and praise the guitar lords for the electrifying, trance-inducing riffs flowing through your core.

As the set waned, Granduciel thanked local openers Summer Cannibals (who blazed through a quick, rollicking set with new members Jenny Logan and Devon Shirley sharing the stage with garage rock stalwarts Marc Swart and Jessica Boudreaux for the first time), and in doing so, he also mentioned their new record (Show Us Your Mind, due out this spring) and shouted out Jackpot! Recording Studio's Larry Crane as "the best ever"—albeit discretely referring to him as LC and testing Portland by questioning if they all knew who LC was, right?

And after that hazy, psychedelia-laced night, The War On Drugs were headed to the Moda Center—"It'll always be the Rose Garden to us," Granduciel said, drawing big cheers, natch—the following evening to catch a sloppy game of basketball between the Blazers and the Pacers. But in the end, we all came out winners.

Check out the complete set list below and watch a snippet of "Red Eyes" live at the Crystal:

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