I really should write my show reviews a little sooner, like before, say, a week passes by. But after dealing with the photos for Pitchfork, I kind of got caught up in the week – packing up my lab stuff to move to another lab for the time being, finishing up a grant, settling down in the new lab, etc. But I finally did get around to posting the other photos I took that night (and there were a lot – a sure sign that I enjoyed the show).
Local band Goodbye Blue Monday opened the show, and we arrived smack dab in the middle of their set. For a sold out show, there weren’t too many people there yet, but the ones who were seemed to be enjoying the set, as was I.
Next band up was Brooklyn band The Subjects. Their music was incredibly catchy, with constantly moving bass lines and upbeat guitar hooks. But their songs were far from simple, with multiple tempo changes per tune, sometimes exploding into a wall of sound. I was very impressed with them as well, and thought they were a good fit as an opener for The Walkmen.
And then The Walkmen shambled onstage. Despite having seen them last year at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia, I wasn’t prepared for how tall Hamilton Leithauser was. Nor how much he looked like Britt Daniel from Spoon (I was fairly drunk at that Philly show – and so was Hamilton, as he confessed to me outside the Casbah later that night). What I was prepared for was his voice – that remarkably Dylanesque warble that sounds much more melodic than its originator ever could. Also shared – a penchant for telling stories in a folky manner, although The Walkmen incorporate more than a few grungy/garage-y influences into their tunes.
Most of their set focused on new material and songs off of their latest release, A Hundred Miles Off (not counting their remake of Pussycats, released in the same year). And it sounded good. Hamilton’s voice positively ripped through the sold-out crowd as he clenched the microphone in both hands when not playing guitar. Sometimes it seems like he’s holding it in check on their records, but that night, all the stops were pulled. I might have fallen in love.
The only downside of the night was when Hamilton mysteriously left the stage for a few minutes, after fussing about trying to find a drink from the other band members. The band carried on in his absence, building up a wall of noise, and when Hamilton finally returned juggling a handful of Sapporos, he took a swig from one and leapt right back into wailing lyrics at us. Although the audience seemed somewhat confused in his absence, no one could really begrudge the guy a drink to quench his weary throat, and things carried on as usual afterwards.
Despite playing two encores, some people were disappointed because they didn’t play “The Rat,” or “We’ve Been Had.” But again, I can’t begrudge a band for not playing their one hit single that’s more than a few years old, especially when they’ve just wowed me with a selection of other great songs, both new and old. They’re trying to move on in another direction, and I’m more than okay with that.