[Photography by GRAHAM TOLBERT]

The War On Drugs really like Bob Dylan. They also like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and the Grateful Dead. If you’ve seen any of those acts live (personally, I’ve seen Dylan, Springsteen, and Dark Star Orchestra), then you know that can’t be a bad thing. Philly’s own W.O.D. played a 105-minute show Saturday night that lit up Union Transfer with the spirit of the aforementioned American rock originals, playing fifteen songs, mostly from their latest LP Slave Ambient and a few from the first Wagonwheel Blues. Like a jam band show, a constant, pleasant vibe resonated throughout the show, but, also like a jam show, there were too many false endings for this reviewer. They opened with “Your Love is Calling my Name,” which begins with a beat reminiscent of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” or a Petty number from the ’80s. The drum machine that drummer Steven Urgo used was a bit distracting but the song redeemed itself when Granduciel eventually turned it into a swirling, epic guitar solo. From that point on, the lead singer, whose downcast face was hidden the entire time by his shaggy, blond hair, took us on a journey through time. Kurt Vile, a former guitar player for the group who has gone on to pursue a solo career, also showed up for a few songs. Like on their most recent album, there were seamless transitions between songs. The noise steadily rose until an 8-minute long version of “Needle in Your Eye #16” from the band’s first album. It was an ear-blasting romp that should have been the climax. They played an encore performance of Grateful Dead’s “Touch of Grey,” instead, which sounded better than it ever has before, but tacking it on at the end felt inconsistent. At about 100 minutes, plus about 75 more including the opening acts, I wish they’d played it closer to the middle. — ALEX POTTER


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