Once spoken of in the same breath as The Strokes and Interpol, The Walkmen changed gears and chose a different trajectory. While their contemporaries have been ploughing the same fields with differing success The Walkmen have been experimenting with soul and folk to inject new life into their music. Albums You and Me and more recently Lisbon have seen the band deviate from standard-fare instruments to give them a bigger, more atmospheric sound – and hopefully a more exciting live show.
Ivan St. John played support. He and his band deserve kudos for their playful performance that literally warms up the audience who have just come in from a typically unforgiving Galway storm with a mixture of pop, folk and blues using ukuleles and kazoos.
While The Walkmen have played in Ireland a number of times, this is their first visit to Galway and the venue suits them well. The intimate setting sees the band open with ‘On The Water’ to a respectably sized crowd. It’s immediately noticeable how physical they sound. Those who were expecting a laid back set might be disappointed. Without the backing of the many instruments present of their recent albums the dynamic of the four piece band is brought out on stage. Much of the momentum is built by guitarist Paul Maroon and drummer Matt Barrick who work together particularly well. Of course, Hamilton Leithauser’s voice is central and ranges from Leonard Cohen style crooning to Rod Stewart levels of wailing. His voice is especially effective on the more morose tracks such as ‘Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone’ from their 2002 debut of the same name.
Predictably the set-list is heavy on material from Lisbon, released in September this year, and this material translates well live as they inject a bit more energy into tracks like ‘Blue is Your Blood’ and ‘Angela Surf City’. Of course there are moments when The Walkmen drop it down a notch or two for the slow songs but for the most part it’s a show of power.
There are a few moments when their stripped down approach doesn’t pay off. The Roy Orbison inspired ‘Canadian Girls’ is a song which really benefits from the big-band sound and the lack of horns here sort of kills the songs strength. However, for the most part The Walkmen slay, especially during their encore which begins Lisbon-highlight and opener ‘Juveniles’ and cumulates with a triumphant rendition of ‘The Rat’ – a fitting conclusion to a satisfying and energetic gig.
Photo from flickr.