Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Walkmen: Dapper little bastards, they are.

Righty-o, then!

Admittedly, I can't stand going to shows with high female populations. This might be a problem as well as hypocritical when you're female, yes? But when you're squished between a giant purse and a pair of girls reassuring each other that their tits extend farther than their stomachs, you start realizing that listening to a record in the comfort of your own home isn't so boring after all. On the other hand, when you're surrounded by said purse and pair, also stuck behind a man's protruding rear end as he leans at a 45 degree angle, people generally begin to look a bit unappealing regardless of their sex. Never mind me, girls.

This isn't just an untimely rant – it's rather timely, actually, and describes my place on the floor at this evening's concert at the Showbox in Seattle. I finally had a chance to check out the Walkmen (as well as respective opener and headliner the Little Ones and Kaiser Chiefs). What I learned – other than the fact that you're healthy if your stomach is flatter than your chest – is that, for one, girls love Britpop. Secondly, a surprising number of people are indifferent to the Walkmen. Most relevant in my eyes is this second fact; I've thought every Walkmen album absolutely beautiful, save for their update on Pussy Cats and despite what most critics thought of A Hundred Miles Off.

Musically, the Walkmen were as spot on as they are on record. There was no real emphasis on any single album, in terms of songs played, and much of the crowd (mostly young and apparently strict Kaiser Chiefs fans) looked blankly and stiffly, save for a performance of “The Rat,” gotten over with early on. One of my personal favorites off A Hundred Miles Off, “All Hands and the Cook,” sounded surprisingly full and punked up – Paul Maroon typically plays a beautiful lead guitar, but with Leithauser adding another layer of guitar to the mix and straining his already-strained vocals, there was a certain roughness to the song that really gave it a bit of added darkness and depth. Nice stuff, as was the taste we got of “Red River,” set for release on the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack. They also brought on additional musicians to take care of trumpet and trombone bits, handy for a most accurate performance of “Louisiana” in particular, which would have been incomplete without the brass addition.

Now, I don't know what you, reader, may have heard about the personalities of members of the Walkmen. I've heard from several people - in such other people's words - that they're a bunch of arrogant pricks. They definitely look the part, nary a smile intact, little crowd interaction, and while front man Hamilton Leithauser is polite and says thank you quite frequently, he performs with a face that appears to hide a lot of pent-up aggression. Could have been his recent arrest on the brain, but without the appropriate mood, even his stylish velvet suit couldn't keep him looking as dapper as he might have been this evening. It may very well be that the group is interested in simply getting down to business and playing without a fuss, but watching them play, I couldn't determine whether they play for themselves or their audience, as they appeared enthusiastic about pleasing neither of the two. A shame, and I hope this is only my inability to read faces, as they've consistently got quite a lot going for them. Now, if Leithauser had learned to get his tall frame well-postured and walk across a bar counter like Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs, maybe his band, the Walkmen, would have snagged the headlining spot this time 'round. Next time, next time.

(Preview and purchase Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone)

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