“This is our first time here…there sure are a lot of antique shops,” War on Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel noted early his band’s headlining set last night at the Glass House in Pomona, California. His observation of the suburb, just outside Los Angeles, is one of three notable tidbits about the city. The second can be gleaned by listening to the Mountain Goats’ We Shall All Be Healed, which is set in the seedy shadows of the region. The third is that the venue is often used to take potential Coachella bookings for test runs. It will surprise few if the War on Drugs ends up on the 2015 festival poster after they passed any possible test with flying colors.
Playing heavily from this year’s masterpiece, Lost in the Dream, Granduciel and his five bandmates captivated the crowd by putting subtle spins on, to borrow the recent words of Mark Kozelek, the “beer-commercial guitar” rock made famous in the ’80s, or “Don Henley meets John Cougar meets Dire Sraits meets ‘Born In The USA’-era Bruce Springsteen.” It’s where the War on Drugs diverge from these touchstones that they find greatness, incorporating a nuanced, ambient intro to the slow-building “In Reverse” or allowing “Under Pressure” to break down mid-song. Live, these are faithful to the album, precise and focused without seeming stiff; they’re reminders of Lost in the Dream‘s innovation.