Last Wednesday night I went to my first concert in four-and-a-half years. Just as I did at that last show in December 2017, I went to see The War on Drugs. With S and the same friends we went to that Dec ’17 show with. This was a rather momentous night for me, though, as it was the first concert I’ve been to in Indy that was not in Broad Ripple.
We saw TWOD at the TCU Amphitheater in White River State Park, right downtown, nestled in between Victory Field, the NCAA headquarters, and the Indianapolis Zoo.
It was a damn perfect night for a show. Storms blew through in the afternoon, took away the humidity, and dropped the temps into the upper 60s. There was a gorgeous sunset just after the show began, which peaked through the side of the stage.
And then there was a fucking fantastic show on the stage.
This is the third time I’ve seen TWOD. They get better every time.
This was a transcendent show, nearly flawless in every way. Adam Granduciel set a damn amplifier on fire, which should speak to the power of the performance.
The band roared through 17 songs that were almost perfectly selected and sequenced. I would have swapped two songs in order at the end of the main set, and maybe shuffled in one or two they didn’t play. But the band was so damn good I can’t make any true complaints.
Granduciel’s vocals did get lost in the mix at times. I believe they were too low to begin the show, and got bumped up for song two. But the rest of the night I think it was just that the band was so loud that the vocals still got overwhelmed. That’s not a terrible thing since he’s not the greatest singer in the world. But at times you were more aware he was making sounds with his mouth than really hearing what he was singing.
The highlight of the show, as I hinted at in the Friday Playlist a week ago, was “Come to the City.” The band doesn’t play many songs off of their first full-length album, Slave Ambient, I believe because those songs are difficult to translate to a live setting. I’ve heard a couple others off that album that have not sounded great. I’ve seen versions of “Come to the City” on YouTube that were good, but didn’t match the power of the album version.
But Wednesday night’s effort? It was incandescent. I think I had a big grin on my face for the entire five or so minutes they were playing it. If I had long hair, I think it would have been blowing back over my shoulders from Granduciel’s overwhelming guitar runs. It was one of the greatest songs I’ve ever seen live, and this is a band that routinely melts people’s faces with their music. When “Come to the City” ended, I looked at the people I was with and yelled, “THAT’S WHAT I CAME HERE FOR!”
As a huge fan that has analyzed nearly every second of the band’s last four albums, I noted how their performances have changed since I first saw them seven years ago. They still largely sound like the same band, if more locked-in and cohesive. Granduciel’s guitar is still the center of the show. But there weren’t any five minute solos, or songs that were stretched out to 20 minutes because of multiple solos like on their last tour. He still shreds, but he condenses his play and shares the spotlight more than he used to. Which makes the moments he does slay even better.
It was also awesome to see how songs they’ve been playing for nearly a decade now – all the big ones from Lost in the Dream for example – have been tightened up while also becoming even more massive. “Under the Pressure” has always been an ass-kicker; it was one of the true highlights of the December 2017 show. But I swear, it made people lose their minds and speak in tongues last week. It really should have closed the main set to allow people a few minutes to catch their breath and get their hearts back into rhythm.
The new songs translate well, too, especially their biggest hit, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore.” I wish they played “Change,” but they seem to have dropped it lately.
The only bummer of the night was “Eyes to the Wind” did not get played. It was listed on the official setlist as the first song for the encore, but I think there was a hard 11:00 sound curfew and they cut it to play “Thinking of a Place” and “Occasional Rain.” Those were both great, but “Eyes to the Wind” is one of those songs that grabs me in the soul every time I hear it.
One other thing I noticed is that Granduciel seems much more relaxed on stage, the band seemed to be having fun during songs, and the overall tone of the show was different than two years ago. Perhaps it is because the songs on I Don’t Live Here Anymore are more optimistic and uplifting than the songs on Lost in the Dream. Wednesday there was a real feeling of not just communion, but celebration in the air. I wouldn’t say the band was ever reticent or somber at their previous shows. They have just brightened up quite a bit.
Indianapolis TWOD fans are lucky. It seems like the city will always be on the band’s tour list thanks to their roots with Bloomington’s Secretly Canadian label. They’ve stopped here on three-straight tours, and played incredible shows each time. Hopefully this isn’t the last time I get to see them.
BTW, if you want to look back at what I wrote about the first two TWOD shows I’ve been to, here are links:
The War On Drugs, Indianapolis, 6–12–15
Wrapping Up (+ TWOD)
I will be seeing my first-ever show at the bigger outdoor venue here this coming week. ↩