After releasing their heavily anticipated album A Deeper Understanding in 2017, subsequently touring behind it through 2018, and along the way becoming bigger than plausibly expected even following the success of Lost In The Dream, the War On Drugs have kept pretty quiet through 2019. Maybe that means something’s on the horizon for 2020? In the meantime, the band has returned for some hometown shows to close out the decade that saw their ascension, and they’ve brought some nice surprises along with them.
Last year, the War On Drugs capped off 2018 with a three-night run of shows called A Drug-Cember To Remember, starting at the tiny Philly club Johnny Brenda’s and working their way up to the Tower Theater. It’s been just over a year since those performances — which makes it just over a year since the band played onstage, period — and this time around they returned for a two-night stand at Union Transfer and the Fillmore. (Though the Fillmore is a pretty big club, these would still qualify as intimate shows by TWOD standards these days.)
The setlists marked the occasion well. On one hand, they were gesturing toward career-spanning, with the great Slave Ambient getting more love than it did through much of the tour behind A Deeper Understanding. (That tour found the Drugs as a much stronger live band than in the past, so the absence of “The Animator” and “Come To The City” was a bummer.) And they also unveiled some new covers.
The War On Drugs are no strangers to incorporating covers into their live shows, including stuff from John Lennon, George Harrison, and the Waterboys over the years. This time, they dug into Neil Young’s “Look Out For My Love” (after previously covering “Like A Hurricane”). And on each night, Philadelphia-based songwriter Rosali joined them for some bigger surprises: the Pretenders’ “Birds Of Paradise” and Patti Smith’s “Because The Night.” (Though when you consider Bruce Springsteen wrote the latter, maybe it’s not too surprising a cover option for the Drugs.) In addition, they revisited their version of Warren Zevon’s “Accidentally Like A Martyr,” which they performed a bunch through 2017 and 2018. Check out videos of the new covers below.