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Thursday, 21 October 2010 18:05

Concert review: The Walkmen rewind and fast forward at Off Broadway, Wednesday, October 20

Concert review: The Walkmen rewind and fast forward at Off Broadway, Wednesday, October 20 Tom Lampe
Written by Jamie Adams

It isn’t surprising that the Walkmen played to a sold-out audience at Off Broadway last night. The band hasn’t come through St. Louis in years, so they could reasonably expect — with the success of their latest album Lisbon — that their fan base would garner more of a following than their usual garage-rock era fans, or those who tag along because they love to hear “Rat” played live.

For this fan, seeing the Walkmen live was akin to reading a screenplay, developing a mental image of how it should look on-stage, then seeing it performed with all of the gusto and panache of a seasoned theatre troupe. Complete with the drunken swagger and band member camaraderie you can imagine listening to Lisbon, the show came to life notwithstanding a few mishaps and lager-induced stumbles that — in small doses — thrilled the packed room.

Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser owned the place with his unscripted performance, breaking into a grin at the end of each song, taking a swig of his drink, and casually checking on the set list with his band mates as if it was all an impromptu concert in a friend’s basement. Guitarist Paul Maroon missed a few notes during “Victory,” to which Leithauser responded by dropping off on the vocals. The place erupted with whistles and applause as if the crowd just saw their favorite comedian break face briefly mid-routine.

The set list was an appropriate mix of tracks from Lisbon, as well as a few tracks from early albums You & Me, A Hundred Miles Off, and even further into the Walkmen’s back-catalogue. Lisbon was front-loaded in the show, with “Juveniles,” “Angela Surf City,” “Woe Is Me,” “Blue As Your Blood,” and “Victory” kicking it all off. “Victory” showed up surprisingly early in the night for such an anthemic piece that has typically been a massive hit with live audiences. It was surprisingly subdued, and may have enjoyed more energy later in the evening as the show gathered momentum. Otherwise, it was a very well-balanced gig, starting with the retro/surf rock of Lisbon and escalating in energy with the early garage rock hits to the tune of “Thinking of A Dream I Had,” and “In the New Year.”

Some creative swapping on-stage helped shake up the latter third of the performance. Paul Maroon, already deft with a guitar, traded in his six-string to prove his worth on the ivories, while Peter Bauer vacated the keys to try his hand at a quick solo in “We’ve Been Had.” Walter Martin and Matt Barrick maintained their stations at bass and drums respectively as the task managers keeping the group on beat. The guys were really going after it full tilt when they wrapped up 13 songs in. The encore lasted only 3 songs, but energy in the room was at full-capacity when the first notes of “Rat” filled the air. Oddly enough, the guys bid their adieu to St. Louis with the solemn “Another One Goes By.” It was a mellowing end to a powerful show, yet somehow fitting when considering their albums are often high energy music with somber vocals. Either way, the audience’s chants of “We Want More” just before the encore left nothing to the imagination. St. Louis will be eager to greet the Walkmen their next time through town.



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