The War on Drugs Live at Madison Square Garden

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The war on drugs (TWOD) are currently on tour to promote their fifth album, I don’t live here anymore. The group’s previous album, that of 2017 A deeper understanding won the 2018 Grammy for Best Rock Album.

With fewer rock albums making a dent in the charts these days, TWOD is something of an outlier. With Tame Impala they open the new psych-rock track, with passionate compositions, ringing guitars and light shows.

I caught TWOD at Madison Square Garden on January 29th. The show was advertised as “an evening of LIVE DRUGS, 2 Hour Set”. They exceeded that by 10 minutes, starting at 8:30 p.m. sharp. The 18-song set (including a three-song encore) opened with “Old Skin” from the new album. They played six more songs from the album, ending with “Occasional Rain”.

Led by singer-songwriter guitarist Adam Granduciel, The War on Drugs appeals to fans of Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and U2. Their songs are athemic, but not over the top like typical classic rock epics. Most TWOD tracks end with repeated choruses, harmonies, and guitar solos. Granduciel is rounded out by fellow guitarist Robbie Bennett in a seven-piece unit that includes saxophonist Jon Natchez and their first wife, keyboardist Eliza Hardy Jones. Charlie Hall holds it all together on drums.

Surveying the crowd at one point, Granduciel commented, “We usually play for 800 people.” The half-full arena had nearly 10,000 fans in attendance, a Garden official told CelebStoner. Check setlist here.

How the War on Drugs Chose Its Name

It is unclear why The War on Drugs took on this band name. They don’t sing about drugs (except maybe for “Red Eyes”) and never make statements about the country’s long war on drugs. In a cover story in the Jan.-Feb. issue 2022 of RelixMike Greenhaus writes:

“The War on Drugs has gone through many different incarnations since Granduciel started recording under the fretboard in 2005. He says a friend came up with the band’s nickname a few years before the project really came to life.

Adam Granduciel: “It was either The War on Drugs or The Rigatoni Danzas. I think we made the right choice.”

Here is Granduciel’s explanation of Song Facts:

“My friend Julian and I invented it a few years ago with a few bottles of red wine and a few typewriters when we were living in Oakland. We were writing a lot then, we were working on a dictionary and it just came out and we were like, ‘Hey, good band name?’ So eventually when I moved to Philadelphia and formed a band, I used it. It was either that or The Rigatoni Danzas. I think we made the right choice. I always thought it was the kind of name I could record all kinds of different music under without any sort of inherent predictability in the name.”

It’s an ironic name. Surely, Granduciel and his bandmates oppose the long war on drugs.

The war on drugs on tour

1/31-1/2 – House of Blues, Boston, MA

2/2 – The Anthem, Washington, DC

2/4 – KEMBA Live!, Columbus, Ohio

2/5 – Internship AE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

2/6 – West Promotional Pavilion at Ovation, Newport, KY

2/8 – The Fillmore Detroit, Detroit, MI

2/10-11 – The Chicago Theater, Chicago, IL

2/12-13 – Riverside Theater, Milwaukee, WI

2/15-16 – Place Theatre, St. Paul, MN

2/18 – Mission Ballroom, Denver, CO

2/19 – The Union Event Center, Salt Lake City, UT

2/21-22 – Paramount Theater, Seattle, Washington

2/23 – Cloud Theater, Portland, OR

2/25 – Bill Graham Auditorium, San Francisco, CA

2/26 – Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall, Los Angeles, CA

2/27 – Festival of Sleeves 2022, Tempe, AZ

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.


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