On a wet and cold Sunday evening, around 1800 people made their way to the beautiful Brighton Dome to see a sold out show with one of the most celebrated alternative rock bands of our time. Those who arrived early got a glimpse of the New York based Amen Dunes, employing the same heavy reverb and snippets of lovely melody that rarely repeat themselves as the headliners. Starting with an empty room, the New Yorkers went about their business professionally, and you could tell the songs were real and packed full of emotion. Ending their set with the epic song ‘Splits are Parted’, singer Damon reached down into his pipes and screamed melodically “Oh, I could Love you, Oh that’d be easy.” Judging by the long line at their merchandise stand at the end of the show, they went down well.
Next up, the band that most people came to see, The War on Drugs. Having formed in 2005 in Philadelphia, their output has been small with only three full albums and two EPs released to date. Their latest LP, Lost in the Dream, has been the most successful and has taken them from Concorde 2 (2012 and 2014) to the Brighton Dome this year. It felt like they were on a whole other level this time, giving everyone the impression that this was a big band, from the light show to the massive sound.
It’s important to point out the mixed ages attending this show, maybe the likeness to Bruce Springsteen, The Waterboys and a bit of Bob Dylan makes their sound accessible to both young and old. This contributed to a nice atmosphere in the Dome, with Granddads and Grandsons singing along to the band together.
The sheer wall of sound that the War on Drugs create is incredible, because it swallows you up yet you can distinctly hear what each of the six members on stage is doing, sometimes having four synths on the go at the same time. The song structures repeat themselves a little but they have found a formula that works extremely well, with the intro generally being a backing track with a drum machine, then some wailing guitars from lead singer and guitarist Adam Granduciel, then everything kicks in with the live drummer, bass player, two keyboardists and a baritone saxophone for good measure. Every time this happens, there is a sense of power and joy that takes over the audience. Granduciel’s vocals swimming on top of this wall of sound is what completes their successful formula. With a Dylanesque ramble and the absence of a chorus in most songs, people are listening to what he has to say and appreciating the way he twists the melody with every new verse. Most of the songs ended with an outro of screaming guitar solos which one doesn’t hear too often nowadays, almost bordering on cheesy at times but somehow still cool. Granduciel is an impeccable guitar player and the sound he manages to get out of his huge pedal board, five different guitars and two amps is remarkable.
Their sound is perfect driving music, in fact, it felt like everyone was on a collective journey on some large American highway heading to the hot West Coast (Granduciel’s native land) from the cold East coast with poignant lyrics such as “I’ve been trying just to pull it through, this rattlin’ road.” After two hours of journeying with this band, everyone left the Dome with an appetite to hit the road with a little more enthusiasm than most Sundays will allow.