The War on Drugs at Ting Pavilion, Charlottesville, VA on May 28, 2022 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, July 17th, 2024  

The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs at Ting Pavilion, Charlottesville, VA on May 28, 2022,

Jun 02, 2022 Photography by Wendy Redfern
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Charlottesville, VA gets a decent amount of worthy shows (My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird and Iron & Wine, Indigo De Souza, and The Flaming Lips are among the city’s upcoming concerts). But all too often touring schedules instead take bands just over an hour (72 miles) to the east, to Richmond. Most international artists skip Virginia altogether, instead playing Washington, D.C., over two hours (or 117 miles) to the northeast from Charlottesville. As someone who lives just over an hour southwest of Charlottesville (and two hours from Richmond/three hours from D.C.), anytime an amazing band comes to Cville plans have to be made. All credit is due to The War on Drugs, then, who on their current tour not only played Charlottesville, but also did a show in Norfolk, VA (two and half hours to the east of Charlottesville), as well as one in D.C.-adjacent Baltimore.

The band, led by singer/guitarist Adam Granduciel, performed at Ting Pavilion, a large covered outdoor venue at the end of the city’s main pedestrian street filled with shops, restaurants, movie theaters, and other music venues. Over the years at the Ting I’ve seen Belle and Sebastian, Father John Misty, Death Cab for Cuite, Spoon + The New Pornographers, and an acoustic set from Bruce Springsteen during a Barack Obama re-election rally in 2012. The War on Drugs, who one of our critics once dubbed as bossgaze due to the influence of Springsteen, had a fairly early set time (they went on at around 7:45 p.m.), had no opener, and played for more than two hours. The band were touring behind I Don’t Live Here Anymore, which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021, but they performed songs from across their career, opening with the new album’s “Old Skin” and closing main set with Lost in the Dream’s “Eyes to the Wind.” Highlights abounded, including “Under the Pressure,” a song that meant a lot to me when my dad was battling cancer and eventually died from the disease. The band also covered a Bob Dylan B-side, “Born in Time,” a song that had special significance to my friend and fellow attendee Blake, as his father used to play it for him when he was a boy. The band was immensely tight and produced an incredible wall of sound, but one with discernable instrument parts. Drummer Charlie Hall was in particular a delight to watch. The encore consisted of “Lost in the Dream,” “Thinking of a Place,” and “Occasional Rain.”

Granduciel was in good spirits. He remembered that when the band first played Charlottesville it was just around the corner, at the tiny Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar venue (they’ve come a long way since then). He joked about the people in the VIP area, that they were essentially under a tent probably gotten from Big Lots, implying they were no better than anyone else. The frontman asked if someone in the audience could get some ice cream for their lighting guy at the ice cream shop a block or so away (which the teenage daughters of one of my friends did). And before playing “Occasional Rain,” Granduciel said he had noticed a local weatherman had made some quips about the band in advance of the show, but had missed an opportunity by not referencing the song’s title. The War on Drugs were selling kid-sized T-shirts featuring an umbrella and a lyric from “Occasional Rain” and our group of friends had three nine year olds in tow, including my daughter (who preferred to buy one of the adult-sized T-shirts, but in size small).

None of our kids lasted more than one song up front where I and two fellow dads (and sometimes some moms) were, preferring to watch the show further back in the lawn area, where they could also run around (it was also admittedly quite loud up front). But there was a boy who was probably in the 11 to 12 age range who was right in front of the stage the whole time, likely with his dad, and seemed very much into the show. Granduciel noticed and acknowledged the youth several times throughout the set. Towards the end, he even threw his harmonica to the boy (it was caught by the boy’s father), making it a night the tween will likely never forget, and one that will also live long in adult memories. Especially for those adults who don’t get to experience as many amazing shows as they used to without driving two to three hours away.

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