Arriving at the rather unusually laid out ABC2, I have to admit that I really did not care for an appetiser of a support act, such was my excitement at seeing The Walkmen at long last.
However, I am not one for shunning a band and goin to a bar across the road so I stood with anticipation as Actress Hands shuffled on to the stage. Looking remarkably unlike a band, they did, on the other hand, look a bit like the famous Arsenal back four of the nineties!
Knowing little about the band, they launch into a set full of Teenage Fanclub laden melodies that are surprisingly enjoyable, with some happy-go-lucky anthems tucked in their set as well.They display an impressive knowledge of local music store Avalanche, by informing us that their next single ‘`Snack Horse’ will be available to buy there next month, the song is not the best of the set but what do I know? Hailing from Brighton they don’t really have a lot to live up to, see The Electric Soft Parade and Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster under ‘`Where are they now?’ so with a bit more coverage they certainly have the potential to better their compatriots.
The second band of the night do little to inspire me, Roland Shanks seem to be under the impression that sounding like The Bravery and The Ordinary Boys is a good thing.It is all style and no substance, surprisingly the crowd seem to like them but then there are plenty of support bands I have witnessed crowds lapping up, Hard-Fi being one of them, so I’ll let you decide whether to seek them out or not.
And so to the band I have waited almost two years to see live, they have built up a steady reputation on the basis of one song ‘`The Rat’ which caused more than a few ripples when it was released in 2004. Since then The Walkmen have seemingly dropped off the radar, a proposed show at The Venue in Edinburgh two years ago was the last I heard of them, there have been no festival appearances and no word of a new release, until now.
They return with a new album to promote ‘`Hundred Miles Off’ and judging by the size of the crowd, there have been more than just myself eagerly awaiting their comeback.
For a kick-off, the band look completely different to how I imagined them, they formed from th e ashes of early nineties NY luminaries, Jonathan Fire Eater, so I was expecting a bunch of receding, older looking guys, however singer Hamilton Leithauser looks like he could act in The O.C never mind sing on it’s soundtrack.They begin with new track ‘`All hands and the cook’ a ‘`swing meets Leonard Cohen shanty’` which doesn’t disappoint, and follow that up with a pulsating ‘`Little House of Savages’ from Bows and Arrows. It is at this point that I realise how strong Leithauser’s voice is with his throaty, soaring tones matching that of the record perfectly. Another couple of newies are played ‘`Danny’s at the wedding’ and ‘`Good for you’s good for me’ are aired before a personal favourite ‘`Thinking of a dream I had’ which sounds absolutely fantastic live, the Wurlitzer style organ accompanying the chorus sounds every bit as good as I thought it would. The emphasis tonight is obviously on the new album but they could not play a gig without unleashing ‘`The Rat’ which sounds epic live and the crowd, including Roddy Woomble and XFM’s Dominik Diamond, respond by going pretty mental. They finish with a stunning performance of ‘`Bows and Arrows’ which epitomises their ability to sound both fragile and violent at the same time, a trait which truly sets them apart from a lot of their contemporaries.
A welcome return then – let’s hope we don’t have to wait as long to see them again.