Last night at the Moore Theatre, lead singer Adam Granduciel was having a guitar problem during the lead-up to a lead. I couldn't tell you which song he was trying to play because everybody knows The War On Drugs has just one long song that seems to be about a train, and the special loneliness of the spaces in-between trains, and you're wearing a jean jacket, and you just can't go back.
Anyway, from my seat I couldn't see if Granduciel had broken a string or what. I could only see that he was trying to whammy-bar himself out of this problem. Finally, he threw up his hand in distress, and like a Shakespearean sprite the spry guitar tech, apparently older than everyone onstage and somehow cooler, leapt through the fake fog with Granduciel's trusty sunburst Gibson-whatever just in time for the leading man to tear into a savory riff that had everybody looking wide-eyed as Moses in the shadow of the golden calf. The audience rose to its feet—for the first time all evening—to applaud their new god.
Granduciel changed guitars between every song (or I guess every pause between The One Song) during their generous set, and this guitar tech was on time every time with the correctly tuned axe. He's worth whatever money they're paying him. And so was the show last night.
To start the evening off, Phoebe Bridgers stood silver-haired in a black dress before a black curtain and sang along with a tight four-piece band her record label found in a catalogue somewhere. Her breathy alto bled into the darkness of the auditorium, and though this lower-middle class reviewer nodded in solemn recognition at some of the lyrics (e.g. "I've got a stack of mail and a tall can / It's a shower beer, it's a payment plan"), her set had a soporific effect on me. That said I hope one of her songs gets mainstream play on the radio, and that she and her band make a bunch of money off of it. Maybe this one:
The War On Drugs played all the songs you wanted them to play off of 2014's Lost In the Dream, and they played all the slightly brighter and more upbeat versions of those same songs off of their major label debut, A Deeper Understanding.
The appeal of the show is the appeal of the records: TWOD offers stability in a world without any. Though the song will begin in darkness, the lead will always show you the light. In the meantime, the snare is going to hit on the 2 and the 4 every time. Once you settle into the groove, you can run an hour on the treadmill or drive to Wenatchee in total peace. Who cares about the lyrics? Even without looking them up you know every one of them tells you the same thing: you just gotta keep goin', keep goin' down the line, keep goin' down that train line in your buffalo plaid button-up. Even if the ghost in Granduciel's voice reminds you that he couldn't keep goin', he's back from the recent past to usher you forward in a series of three-beat phrases that sound like Christian Bob Dylan trying to sound like Tom Petty.
Though the band paid no homage to their betters, they did do a "pretty good—no, very good" cover of Warren Zevon's "Accidentally Like A Martyr," according to a friend I brought to the show. He was one of maybe two other people who clapped loudly and wooped when Granduciel sang the opening line. "The phone don't ring..."
And maybe this says more about Seattle than anything else, and as if it needed saying, but the crowd was very white. Alarmingly white. Predominately blonde and bearded, they were somehow even whiter than your faithful correspondent.
One of my colleagues who saw the show on Monday said the place felt "less like a rock show and more like a webinar at Amazon HQ," but even the local tech industry is more diverse than the crowd assembled last night at the Moore. I mean, at one point Granduciel introduced the bass player, David Hartley, as a man with some relationship to Bainbridge Island, and the crowd went nuts. It was the most love I'd ever heard for Bainbridge Island, and I go to the ballet a LOT. Another colleague of mine at the Stranger described TWOD as "yacht rock Bruce Springsteen," which may also have something to do with it.