I’m standing in the vaulted hall of the HMV Ritz, tapping my little feet and snapping my fingers to the washed out, daydream vibes of tonight’s more than qualified warmer-uppers, Wild Nothing and thinking of when I first heard The Walkmen.
A friend had got into them like so many after the release of 2004′s ‘Bows & Arrows’ and it’s subsequent career catapulting singles ‘The Rat’ and Little House Of Savages’. He played them to me on his minidisc robot. I hated it.
It wasn’t until 2009′s Lisbon and a chance live encounter that I really started to get it. Maybe it was the cleaner, sharper lined sound that I preferred to what I’d heard before or the sweetening, coming of age vocal delivery, whatever the reason, I became a fan.
Wild Nothing say goodnight and I salute them with a peace sign. We smoke a cigarette and laugh in each others faces then head on in to position ourselves close enough to the stage to see the creases on The Walkmen’s trousers.
The lights go down and Hamilton Leithauser, Paul Maroon, Walter Martin, Matt Barrick and Peter Bauer slink onto the ample stage. They are dressed impeccably and the master of the pipes Hamilton Leithauser in particular, looks like if you could get close enough, he would smell very clean indeed. Luckily for him, we couldn’t.
The performance begins and the band are instantly mesmerising. The two guitars at port and starboard jangle in tumbling harmony while the drums filter in with a bounce and stripped back simplicity that says far more in one well placed strike than the showboating drummer by Piccadilly Bus Station could say in a thousand life times.
The packed crowd, although clearly gawking with love, take a while to warm up and it isn’t until ‘Lisbon’ stand out track ‘Blue As Your Blood’ that the room really feels alive.
We spend the next hour and a half swaying and clapping through a set of songs spanning nearly all of the band’s twelve year, six album existence.
Leithauser is on incredible form, pushing his vocal chords to just before breaking point on each majestically crooned yet heartbreakingly powerful note, at times commanding the stage, and the entire hall, with just a hand in his pocket. Moments of shear bliss come from shimmering sunshine classics ‘Woe Is Me’ and the pulsating jump-along anthem ‘Angela Surf City’, and at this point, we are putty in their hands.
New tracks from latest long player ‘Heaven’ are received with the same adoration as more established live tracks, with album opener ‘We Can’t Be Beat’ pulling us all together to holla the chorus, trying as best as we can to match the rasping, drawling force of Leithauser.
We are introduced to the band in true big show style and after Leithauser takes a celbratory wonder through the throng of loving, sweating fans, the band leave the stage. It feels like it went by in a heartbeat. We clap and smile and I imagine The Walkmen doing the same back stage. They are a band in full swing, a band who have been around for over a decade and could only now be producing their full live potential. Exquisite, classy, explosive and glittering with stardom.