The War on Drugs prove in Adam Granduciel’s new hometown why they deserved to win a Grammy more than four years ago

The War on DrugsBy Josh Herwitt //

The War on Drugs //
Shrine Auditorium – Los Angeles
February 26th, 2022 //

What can you say about Adam Granduciel that hasn’t already been said or written?

Let’s just cut to the chase then: the guy keeps getting better and better with age. And though he might give off the impression that he’s a tad bit older than the 43 years he just turned last month thanks to all of those late nights writing songs in his bedroom or at the studio, Granduciel has continued to push the band he formed in Philadelphia more than 17 years ago to new and greater heights.

The War on Drugs’ foray into music’s mainstream has been a slow churn dating all the way back to 2005 before it culminated four years ago when they beat out a number of hard-rock heavyweights in Metallica, Mastodon, Queens of the Stone Age and Nothing More to win the Grammy for “Best Rock Album” at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards.

It was a career-defining moment for the group that’s heartland sound has centered around Granduciel’s fascination with Bob Dylan — an enthusiasm for the legendary folk singer-songwriter that he and fellow Philly-bred indie rocker Kurt Vile shared when they first started playing together in each other’s projects — and continued with his love for Bruce Springsteen. (There’s also a hint of Rod Stewart and Tom Petty in Granduciel’s work for good measure.)

Six months prior, I had caught The War on Drugs at Apogee Studio for KCRW’s Apogee Sessions (read our review here), and after hearing them preview a few songs off A Deeper Understanding that evening, it was right then and there that I knew the album was well deserving of some significant hardware.

But following 2014’s seminal Lost in the Dream — the band’s third album which might be arguably better than its award-winning follow-up — with another 10-track masterpiece, Granduciel had done what only a few are capable of these days, particularly in the rock space, by creating an emotional, yet timeless gem for our earholes to bathe in.

With little room to go up from there, Granduciel certainly had a challenge on his hands when it was time to make another LP. It wasn’t just that he had become a father to his son Bruce (yes, he really is named after the Boss) in 2019 and officially moved to LA’s San Fernando Valley shortly thereafter even if those were two major life changes, but the expectations surrounding The War on Drugs’ next studio effort had only grown even more since the last one.

For Granduciel, it didn’t matter. He went back to the grind and delivered once again. What resulted after hours at his Burbank rehearsal space with engineer and producer Shawn Everett was I Don’t Live Here Anymore, which arrived back in October and peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard 200. It’s another record worthy of high praise — in fact, I ranked it my favorite album last year (see our 2021 picks here) — and at the same time more accessible than its predecessors.

What makes The War on Drugs’ albums so great, however, is that you can just let them run. There’s no need to skip a track as one flows right into the next, and I Don’t Live Here Anymore follows suit much in the same way Lost in the Dream and A Deeper Understanding do. And as Granduciel seemingly settled into his new environs with music videos filmed in California for “Living Proof” and the title track featuring Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius, I was eager to hear the new material with an audience on hand.

So when The War on Drugs announced a tour for 2022 last summer and scheduled only one show in 2021 at Desert Daze, I knew their gig in LA at the Shrine Auditorium would feel even that much more special given Granduciel’s story but also because it was the final U.S. date before the band heads to Europe for a month. While that fact wouldn’t completely hold up with The War on Drugs replacing My Morning Jacket at Innings Festival the ensuing day, they made sure to offer quite a proper 2 1/2-hour concert experience for the nearly capacity crowd inside the landmark venue of 6,300.

Granduciel (vocals, guitars, harmonica, keyboards, samplers) and his cohorts — David Hartley (bass, backing vocals), Robbie Bennett (keyboards, piano, guitar), Charlie Hall (drums, organ), Jon Natchez (saxophone, keyboards), Anthony LaMarca (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals) and Eliza Hardy Jones (keyboards, backing vocals) — were treating us to “An Evening of LIVE DRUGS” and most were happy to oblige. That meant “Old Skin” leading things off with “Pain” batting second. “An Ocean in Between the Waves” never disappoints, and slotting it third before one of the highlights off I Don’t Live Here Anymore in “I Don’t Wanna Wait” created a huge wave of momentum that The War on Drugs carried through the rest of the set, which boasted “Strangest Thing” and “Red Eyes” back to back, another new standout in “Harmonia’s Dream” that has been extended live and an appearance by Lucius as expected with Wolfe and Laessig leaving their East Coast origins for the City of Angels a few years ago.

When it came time to take things up a notch, Granduciel turned to “Under the Pressure” as still one of the most shining achievements in his ever-expanding repertoire. That’s not to say what came after — the previously unreleased “Ocean of Darkness” that didn’t make it onto I Don’t Live Here Anymore but was debuted during The War on Drugs’ performance on “The Tonight Show” in 2020 — didn’t carry the same weight, because in many ways it did considering the song has only been played live seven times in total so far.

After taking a couple nights off in Portland and San Francisco, “In Reverse” subsequently returned to the setlist and propelled us into a short-lived encore break that only lasted a minute or two. Granduciel, after all, had more to get to before saying goodbye, as he used “Thinking of a Place” to jumpstart a four-song finish that included a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Born in Time” and “Comin’ Through” from The War on Drugs’ 2010 EP Future Weather to mark only the second time fans got to hear it on this tour and since 2019.

Granduciel isn’t one for much stage banter, and after one last thank you, he broke into I Don’t Live Here Anymore finale “Occasional Rain” to take us all home. Even though it has served as The War on Drugs’ closer for several shows on this tour, the title seemed rather appropriate in a city as dry as LA where we haven’t seen a whole lot of precipitation this winter.

People often say the phrase “when it rains, it pours” when they experience a barrage of misfortune all at the same time. In Granduciel’s case notwithstanding, the past eight years have been one big downpour of success for The War on Drugs. Now with the band at an all-time high, it doesn’t appear that the storm Granduciel has been riding will be letting up anytime soon.

Setlist:
Old Skin
Pain
An Ocean in Between the Waves
I Don’t Wanna Wait
Victim
Strangest Thing
Red Eyes
Living Proof
Harmonia’s Dream
Your Love Is Calling My Name
Come to the City
Rings Around My Father’s Eyes
I Don’t Live Here Anymore (with Lucius)
Under the Pressure
Ocean of Darkness
In Reverse

Encore:
Thinking of a Place
Born in Time (Bob Dylan cover)
Comin’ Through
Occasional Rain

Supergroup or not, Gone Is Gone roar loud at their album release party in LA

Gone Is Gone
By Josh Herwitt //

Gone Is Gone //
Troubadour – West Hollywood, CA
January 6th, 2017 //

In music circles, the term “supergroup” often gets thrown around when various members of established bands come together to form their own side project. The 90’s were a particularly fertile time for supergroups, with the Seattle grunge movement paving the way for offshoots like Mad Season and Temple of the Dog, which a little more than three months ago, reunited and toured for the first time ever to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of their self-titled debut LP. But as the digital age has taken the industry by storm over the past decade, supergroups have become fewer and farther between.

Gone Is Gone are one of those rare supergroups that have emerged in the post-millennium era, even if the quartet doesn’t boast the same sort of star power that Audioslave and Velvet Revolver had in the early 2000’s. Instead, it’s a collection of musicians who all complement each other’s playing quite well, fusing Mastodon vocalist/bassist Troy Sanders’ deep bellow with Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen’s atmospheric riffs, At the Drive-In drummer Tony Hajjar’s thunderous rhythms and composer Mike Zarin’s background scoring Hollywood films.

Sanders, Van Leeuwen, Hajjar and Zarin made their official live debut as Gone Is Gone less than 12 months ago. At the time, they had yet to release a single or any studio material, but that didn’t matter to the sold-out crowd at LA’s Dragonfly, the 400-person club along Santa Monica Blvd. that primarily books up-and-coming acts.

Gone Is Gone

Since then, Gone Is Gone have unveiled their eponymous EP and most recently a full-length record by the name of Echolocation, which they dropped last Friday — the same day as their album release show at the diminutive Troubadour. And considering it was only the group’s second live performance, there was plenty of anticipation in the air. Gone Is Gone, after all, received their fair share of media attention in 2016, enough for fans of Mastodon, Queens of the Stone Age and At the Drive-In to certainly take notice.

But no one, not even the band members themselves, know what the future holds for Gone Is Gone. With Mastodon, Queens and ATDI all expected to release new albums this year, finding the time to tour could prove to be difficult. And from what Sanders told us at the Troubadour, who knows if they’ll actually play another gig in 2017. The project, which was conceived out of the writing sessions that Zarin and Hajjar usually hold to compose video-game and movie-trailer themes for Zarin’s music production company, takes on a more cinematic feel than one might initially think based on the names involved. For Sanders, who is used to sharing vocal duties in Mastodon with Brann Dailor and Brent Hinds, it represented a “cool challenge” and “blind experiment” as he explained to Rolling Stone days before taking the stage in LA.

With floor space at the Troubadour tightening as the clock approached 10 p.m., Sanders, Van Leeuwen, Hajjar and Zarin stepped up to the plate and delivered a 14-song set of hard-hitting tunes over the next hour. There was the sludge-metal doom that often emanates from Sanders on Echolocation, Zarin’s versatility as a multi-instrumentalist, and of course, Hajjar’s kinetic drumming. But what was particularly cool to see was the space Van Leeuwen had to let loose, whether it was on his custom Fender Telecaster or a badass 12-string that he strapped on after a few songs. The LA native, who plays alongside Josh Homme in Queens of the Stone Age and assumed a similar role as the second guitarist in A Perfect Circle, showed that he is more than capable of shredding like a lead axeman should, putting his unique style and flair — Homme calls him “the best-dressed man in rock ‘n’ roll” and he’s probably right — on display without having to share the spotlight with anyone. It’s what makes Gone Is Gone different from what we usually see out of Sanders, Van Leeuwen and Hajjar in their respective bands, even if you can hear a little bit of Mastodon, Queens and ATDI shine through in the finished product. So, on this night, the foursome fittingly chose to close with the title track on its new LP, providing one last rush of blood to the head before it was time to leave. And then, just like that, Gone Is Gone were nowhere to be found.

Setlist:
Sentient
Praying From the Danger
Gift
Resurge
Starlight
Violescent
Roads
Dublin
Ornament
Slow Awakening
This Chapter
Stolen From Me
One Divided
Echolocation

Albums you’ll want to hear in 2017

2017 albumsWritten by Josh Herwitt //

For as bad as 2016 might have been, there’s no question it yielded some excellent albums. So, what’s in store for 2017? It’s still early, but from what we know right now, there’s plenty of new music on the horizon — and a lot of it we can’t wait to get our hands on.

Here are 10 upcoming albums (in chronological order by release date) that you’ll want to hear and could very well end up being on some “Best of 2017” lists in another 12 months.


Bonobo – Migration

Bonobo - Migration

Release date: January 13th
Record label: Ninja Tune

British musician, producer and DJ Simon Green has organically built a loyal following among electronic music fans for almost two decades with a unique sound that combines downtempo electronica with trip-hop and world-music influences. Since 2013’s The North Borders, he has moved to Los Angeles and recorded his sixth LP Migration, which boasts a few notable guest appearances from Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker), Rhye and Hundred Waters.


The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

The Flaming Lips - Oczy Mlody

Release date: January 13th
Record label: Warner Bros.

Wayne Coyne and his psychedelic sidekicks have been busy over the last few years, recording Beatles cover album With a Little Help From My Fwends in 2014 and releasing a collaborative LP with Miley Cyrus the following year. On their 15th studio effort, the difficult-to-pronounce Oczy Mlody that drops on Coyne’s birthday, the Lips return to the days of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and get a little help from their pop-star “fwend” on closing track “We a Famly”.


SOHN – Rennen

SOHN - Rennen

Release date: January 13th
Record label: 4AD

London native Christopher Taylor has been known for working extensively with such artists as BANKS, Lana Del Rey and Rhye, but his transition in becoming a legitimate solo act was cemented with the release of his 2014 debut LP Tremors, which peaked at No. 31 on the UK charts. Now calling LA his home, he has spent the last three years constructing Rennen, his second record as SOHN that’s led by “Signal” and its frighteningly beautiful music video.


The xx – I See You

The xx - I See You

Release date: January 13th
Record label: Young Turks

No impending album in the first quarter of 2017 may have as much hype around it as The xx’s I See You, their long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s Coexist. The build-up to its release in the last few months has seen the London trio perform on SNL, where they showcased lead single “On Hold” and debuted “I Dare You”, and play shows in Eastern Europe to go along with the news of guitarist/vocalist Romy Madley Croft’s recent engagement.


Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound

Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sound

Release date: January 27th
Record label: Carpark Records

Lo-fi noise rockers Cloud Nothings have come a long way since Dylan Baldi started recording songs in his parents’ basement. With their last two LPs — 2012’s Attack on Memory and 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else — garnering critical acclaim from the music media, the four-piece will release Life Without Sound, its fifth studio album and first with lead guitarist Chris Brown now officially a member of the band, later this month.


Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life

Japandroids - Near to the Wild Heart of Life

Release date: January 27th
Record label: ANTI-

Known for their DIY approach and high-energy performances, Brian King and David Prowse are back after what some may have considered a brief hiatus since touring in support of their 2012 studio album Celebration Rock. This time, the Canadian garage-punk duo is signed to a new label, with its third LP Near to the Wild Heart of Life set to drop on ANTI- in a couple of weeks before embarking on a 20-date North American tour this winter.


Elbow – Little Fictions

Elbow - Little Fictions

Release date: February 3rd
Record label: Polydor

2017 marks a big year for Elbow. The Mercury Prize winners have been going at it for 20 years, and to celebrate the occasion, frontman Guy Garvey and company are unveiling their seventh studio album Little Fictions, which features collaborations with The Hallé Orchestra and their choir after longtime drummer Richard Jupp announced in 2016 that he was leaving the group to pursue other creative projects, from expanding his drum school to various charity work.


Sampha – Process

Sampha - Process

Release date: February 3rd
Record label: Young Turks

Sampha Sisay, who performs under his mononymous stage name, has built much of his reputation on working with high-profile artists like Drake, Kanye West and Solange. But almost seven years after unveiling his debut EP Sundanza, the South London electronic musician, singer-songwriter and producer is finally dropping his own full-length effort, highlighted by previously released singles “Timmy’s Prayer” and “Blood on Me”.


Ryan Adams – Prisoner

Ryan Adams - Prisoner

Release date: February 17th
Record label: PAX AM/Blue Note

At the age of 42, Ryan Adams is as prolific as any musician out there right now, with Prisoner marking his 16th LP and the follow-up to his Taylor Swift cover album. And while he has been teasing the record for about six months, originally hinting at a possible November release, the alt-country songwriter gets ready for his next chapter, which he says was inspired by 80’s rock giants like Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC despite coping with a very public divorce at the time.


The Shins – Headworms

The Shins - Heartworms

Release date: March 10
Record label: Columbia

By the time The Shins unleash their fifth LP this March, it will be nearly five years between album releases for the Portland-based outfit. Of course, it’s no secret that bandleader James Mercer keeps a tight schedule between The Shins and Broken Bells, but on Heartworms, the Albuquerque native made sure to include “So Now What”, the song he wrote for the “Wish I Was Here” soundtrack that he later said was “one of the best things” he has ever done.


The following artists and bands are expected to release new albums in 2017 but have yet to confirm an official release date and/or an album title:

ANTEMASQUE
Arcade Fire
Broken Social Scene
Bruce Springsteen
Chic
Chromatics
Depeche Mode
Diddy
DJ Premier
Gorillaz
Grizzly Bear
GZA
Haim
Jesu/Sun Kil Moon
John Mayer
Kanye West
The Killers
LCD Soundsystem
Lupe Fiasco
Major Lazer
Mastodon
Modest Mouse
My Morning Jacket
The National
The Offspring
Pond
Ride
Sky Ferreira
Spiritualized
St. Vincent
T.I.
Troye Sivan
Vampire Weekend
Wyclef Jean
Zack de la Rocha