Adam Granduciel is standing in the middle of the stage, hunched over his guitar and stabbing repeatedly at the strings as one final note reverberates around the Powerstation's walls.

With a drum riser kicked over behind him, it was a violent punctuation point to what had always promised to be a celebratory show - the first of a two-night stand the Philadelphia band are performing in New Zealand.

For starters, Granduciel's indie-rock project The War on Drugs have released what many regard as the album of the year, with March's Lost in the Dream receiving countless accolades by musical tastemakers and charting as the highest-rated album of 2014 on aggregate site Metacritic.

And these are the last shows they're performing this year after what Granduciel called "a year of touring" - with the Powerstation's sold out walls packed with people buzzing about seeing what all the hype was about at their first New Zealand show.


They weren't disappointed. Crafted on his own during an apparently intense and introspective songwriting process, Lost in a Dream's world weary anthems come alive on stage, with Granduciel fronting a tight-knit six-piece band that includes keyboards and saxophones.

Yes, the comparisons to the classic storytelling styles of some of the best in the business are obvious - with clear references to Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Mark Knopfler. One mate quipped that he was really enjoying watching "Dylan's performance with the E Street Band".

But right from the road trip lope of Burning, Granduciel seemed determined to make those reference points his very own thing, whether he was blowing into a harmonica during the intense climax to In Reverse or delivering the night's angriest guitar solo for Under the Pressure.

Granduciel's mission statement came through as he uttered "I've been rambling, I'm just drifting," during Come to the City. But you sure could lose yourself wandering down the meandering dreamscapes of Disappearing and the hypnotic shoegaze of An Ocean Between the Waves, which delivered one of the night's best moments with its metronomic thuds and yelps of, "How can I be free?"

An eclectic five-song encore mixed up the pace with the inclusion of the swooning ballad Black Water Falls and the intense Red Eyes with Granduciel's band waving goodbye while he struck those repetitive final notes.

At times this felt like a show better suited to a much bigger venue, or even an outdoor ampitheatre. Don't be surprised if The War on Drugs get upgraded next time they're here - this year's best band seem set to stick around for quite some time.

* The War on Drugs perform again at the Powerstation tonight.
The War on Drugs
Where: Powerstation, Auckland
When: Thursday, December 18