By Mike Sullivan
|photo: Mike Sullivan|
New York’s The Walkmen are currently on tour to support their latest album, Lisbon, and passed through Chicago last night to play Metro with opening acts Japandroids and Miniature Tigers. I have been listening to the moody, groovy new record for a few weeks, and in my opinion, it was written to be played live. I’m not knocking the way it was produced or recorded, but really felt the vibe and emotion of the material in a live setting.
The band took the stage in their usual dressy fashion, with button-up shirts, casual pants and vocalist/guitarist Hamilton Leithauser sporting a blazer. The first thing that always comes to mind when I see them is the cast from “Dead Poets Society.” It’s a look that works for them and matches their whole vibe. Anway, onto the music...
This was the first show this year that had my full attention after my usual “three songs, no flash” in the photo pit. Without a camera distracting my ears, I could really appreciate what the Walkmen bring to a live performance. Hamilton’s range and ability to hold a note would leave my vocal chords absolutely destroyed. Matt Barrick was a machine when pounding on the drums during songs such as “Angela Surf City” and “The Rat.” Another notable element was the distinct sound that came out of Paul Maroon’s Rickenbacker guitar, played the way it was designed to be played. Then there was Walter Martin playing an old upright piano that you could have sworn was in your music class in grammar school. Finally, lurking towards the rear of the stage was Peter Bauer on bass, bringing the entire rhythmic sound together.
Their set started off very quietly with an older song, “Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone.” Then came some new titles, including “Blue as Your Blood,” a song that has a distinct Johnny Cash-type rockabilly feel. Next, “Angela Surf City” brought things up a notch. It’s a song that starts off slow and then kicks into high gear, and served as the perfect way to wake up some of the people who were just standing around. Next was a track from the You & Me album, “On the Water,” followed by another Lisbon cut, “Woe Is Me.” The band dug further into their vault and played “All Hands and rhe Cook,” “Blizzard of ‘96” and “We’ve Been Had” off of their first two records. They continued to play a mixture of old and new material for the rest of the set, which was a good way to please both new converts and longtime fans.
What I liked most about The Walkmen’s set was that they didn’t play their most recognizable hit, “The Rat,” until almost the very end. In a way, this forced people to stay through the whole show and better appreciate everything that the group have put into their music over the years. Needless to say, “The Rat” is the one song that really lit the crowd up, and you could tell everyone was waiting to hear it. The band closed out the night with “Another One Goes By,” which kept the tempo up and nicely brought the set full circle.
Check out more photos after the jump