The War On Drugs bring emotional depth to stadium rock at London’s O2

The Philly rockers continue to own their stadium status with a grand, sweeping London set

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When The War On Drugs took the stage at London’s monumental O2 Arena in December 2018, it felt right — but only just. Bolstered by their landmark 2017 LP A Deeper Understanding, their huge, sweeping songs suited the scope of an arena, just as the Philadelphia band had found themselves too big for the mid-sized venues they had already sold out with ease.

Their return to The O2 last night was triumphant. With characteristic coolness, Adam Granduciel and his band owned the stage just like they deserved to, sparing much chat save for the occasional thanks and band intros, instead letting their mind-melting guitar work steal the show.

But for all the gritty, classic rock clout and ripping guitar solos on the likes of ‘An Ocean Between The Waves’, ‘Strangest Thing’ and ‘Under The Pressure’, there’s a sense of emotional depth thanks to moments such as set opener ‘Old Skin’ and the halcyon glow of ‘Harmony’s Dream’ — both from 2021’s I Don’t Live Here Anymore. Live, that album’s title track feels like being blasted back to the 80s, as blue and pink hues emanate from the gorgeous, but understated cube of light they play in.

Those keen enough to scour, would have known that the band had included a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Born In Time’ on the preceding nights of their European tour. With Granduciel already beginning to act like he’s taking requests during the encore, it feels as though it’s coming. “‘Born In Time’?” he asks excitedly. “I can one up you.” The band do just that, closing instead with a version of Neil Young’s incendiary ‘Like A Hurricane’.

The War On Drugs head to Leeds and Edinburgh next on their UK tour. Limited tickets are available here.