Thursday, June 7, 2012
Photos/Review: The Walkmen @ Bowery Ballroom
The Walkmen @ Bowery Ballroom – June 6, 2012
Let’s get this one fact out of the way: Hamilton Leithauser has the best pipes in indie rock. Hands down. No question. The man can wail. And with such distinction, that in the decades to come people will still be attempting to imitate his gruff holler to only mediocre results. It helps that the other members of The Walkmen, who performed for over two hours last night at New York City’s best venue (with just a short set break), are all extremely talented and grounded musicians.
Following the release of Bow + Arrows in 2004, which tossed the band into the proverbial spotlight, the Walkmen could have gone in a vastly different direction. The whole garage-revival boom of the early ‘00s spawned an overwhelming host of bands, and some of them put out excellent debut and even sophomore albums. But once the dust settled, a small majority of those bands have persevered the trend. Simply put: in a bizarre hellish nightmare, The Walkmen could have become Kings of Leon, and the indie rock scene would be in a much sadder place as a result.
Luckily, The Walkmen are not Kings of Leon, and their new album Heaven is not Come Around Sundown (I had to Google that one because I stopped caring about five years ago). In fact, Heaven just might be their best yet, and yet in a weird way I’m a little shocked at the amount of sudden attention it’s getting. Really just because anyone who has been paying attention to their output in the past decade should have known that they were bound to release something as great as Heaven sooner or later.
And so last night, the band played almost the entire new album, along with selections from the rest of their discography, over the span of two hour-long sets. Newer songs such as “Love Is Luck,” “The Love You Love,” and “Heaven” crackled with the same energy and fierceness of older songs such as “The New Year,” “Hang On, Siobhan” and of course, “The Rat.” It’s quite admirable of a band to expand upon their roots while maintaining the edginess of their youth. And credit must go to the horn section they brought along (featuring Hamilton’s wife), who intermittently came onstage to perform with the band.
When the second set ended just after 11pm, the house lights came on and music played on the PA, but it became clear no one was leaving the venue without an encore. I looked around me and saw a completely packed Bowery Ballroom applauding the band, who are arguably at their peak, in what Hamilton called their “old stomping grounds.” And eventually they did return , horn section intact, to play “Canadian Girl” off of 2008’s You & Me. It was satisfying of course, but I’m certain the crowd easily would have endured a third set.
Did you stream the show on Spotify? How did that turn out? Check out some more photos I took with my point-and-shoot, plus the setlist below…
We Can't Be Beat
Blue As Your Blood
In The New Year
Love Is Luck
The Love You Love
Angela Surf City
Hang On, Siobhan
All Hands And The Cook
Woe Is Me
The Blue Route
Line by Line
Thinking Of A Dream I Had
On The Water
What's In It For Me
We've Been Had