When The Walkmen released their fourth album in August of this year it was met with rave reviews. Yet it was hard to convince some people of just how good they are. That didn’t seem to matter sometimes, as the title denotes, this is really only about You & Me.
Much more than that initial singular relationship however, a physical gig by The Walkmen is a different matter. The Button Factory is looking particularly cosy, with a decent crowd for a Sunday night: it’s full but by no means sold out. The band take to the stage, with frontman Hamilton Leithauser larger than life, adjusting his already tall mic stand to its fullest height. Along with Paul Maroon on guitar, they take on -New Country’, setting the mood beautifully, opening the show slowly, simply and significantly. The rest of the band join in for the subdued rock of -On The Water’, warming up the crowd. But it’s -The New Year’ that brings the night to a new level: a classic epic shanty of doomed optimism, with churning guitars over layered organ sounds, it builds and builds into a majestic and moving crescendo.
Unfortunately, their Cuban brass section were turned back when they tried to enter the UK, so no horns for the rest of the tour, meaning that Maroon ups the reverb on his guitar for -Canadian Girl’, to replace the trumpets. -The Red Moon’ loses none of its warmth, with red lighting and a mirrorball adding to the atmosphere. This is not just music to drink to; it’s music to be drunk to, on bourbon, and lots of it. Maybe it’s a drunken thought, but there’s a hint of a Pogues’ influence about The Walkmen, where they successfully splice Christmas music and garage rock, if that makes sense.
Sobering up for -The Blue Route’, the crowd join in for the chorus, rocking out, hands in the air, screaming ‘What’s happened to you?’, while they scream and clap their way through -The Rat’, the band’s biggest hit to date.
Throughout the night, Walter Martin and Peter Bauer share organ and bass duties (Martin also sells t-shirts, incidentally ill-fitting ones at that). Leithauser rarely moves from centre stage, looming over the audience and commanding their attention, while the highly skilled Matt Barrick holds it all together with his combination of rumbling and clickety clackety drum sounds.
A three-song encore finished with -138th Street’ from fans’ favourite, Bows & Arrows, a remarkably delicate late-night lament. The Walkmen remain one of the world’s best-kept secrets: surely they can’t remain that way for long.