WORDS AND IMAGES PAUL EVANS
The Walkmen’s genre-spanning creativity, raw emotional depth and their lasting impact on the indie rock landscape are impressively on full show tonight.
New Century Hall in Manchester stands as a captivating testament to the city’s rich history and architectural grandeur with its high ceilings, elaborate detailing and beautiful craftsmanship. It’s a magnificent venue located in the heart of the city and flawlessly blends the city’s rich industrial past with Manchester’s vibrant contemporary culture. The venue seamlessly merges the past with the present, but would tonight’s headliners, presented by the fabulous Now Wave, be able to do the same as they return after a ten-year break?
As the audience fills the venue there is a palpable sense of anticipation and excitement in the air. Hailing from New York City, The Walkmen left an indelible mark on the music scene for some in the 2000s. I guess they weren’t as commercially successful as they could have been, but with their unique blend of moody atmospherics, evocative lyricism and raw emotional depth they did consistently stand out as a force to be reckoned with. They also wrote and recorded two of the best singles from the whole decade in “The Rat” and “Heaven” for me.
Entering to thunderous applause, singer Hamilton Leithauser tells us about the first time the band were supposed to play Manchester back in the 2000s. Having arrived, the band found out they weren’t actually booked to play so spent the night in a student bar instead. After a great deal of laughter, they launch into a blistering set of raw emotion and electrifying soundscapes spanning their memorable career. Hamilton’s distinctive voice simultaneously raspy and melodic cutting through the air with captivating intensity as he marauds the stage.
One of the noteworthy aspects of The Walkmen’s career is their refusal to be pigeonholed into a single genre. They’ve effortlessly shifted between indie rock, post-punk, folk and even elements of Americana. This approach allows them to continually surprise and engage the audience tonight. “The Rat” is full on raw energy, unwavering guitar riffs and Leithauser’s urgent vocals while “Red Moon” is infused with a rich, textured, introspective quality. Both styles drawing in and resonating deeply with the audience.
The band’s presence is magnetic, their collective energy unmistakeable and the excitement of the crowd is almost tangible. Leithauser’s charismatic performance effortlessly navigates between moments of vulnerability and bursts of unbridled energy. The band members behind him, locked into a musical synergy that showcases their years of collaboration. Guitarist Paul Maroon‘s intricate melodies, Peter Bauer and Walter Martin‘s dynamic keyboard work and driving basslines and Matt Barrick‘s inspired drumming combining to create a rich and perfect sonic tapestry. Where trends come and go, The Walkmen have carved out a niche for themselves as purveyors of timeless soundscapes. Their ability to evoke deep emotions, their genre-spanning creativity and their lasting impact on the indie rock landscape are on full show tonight.
As the set reaches its climax, the band delve into more anthemic tracks, infusing the venue with an electrifying energy that has the crowd dancing and jumping. “Angela Surf City” elicits roars of approval and “Heaven” further showcases the bands’ ability to craft melodic, uplifting songs. Its dreamy atmosphere and Leithauser’s emotive vocals creating a sense of transcendence in the venue.
It’s a performance tonight that is not only musically exceptional, but emotionally resonant. The ability to traverse the spectrum of human emotions through music on full display, with the audience taken on a journey they would not soon forget. The audience’s reaction a testament to the deep connection that The Walkmen have forged with their fanbase over the years. As the crowd disperses into the night, the echoes of The Walkmen’s performance lingers, a reminder of the profound impact that music can have on the human soul. An impact that resonates on a deeply emotional level tonight thanks to the mighty Walkmen.
1/ What’s in It for Me
2/ On the Water
3/ In the New Year
4/ The Rat
5/ Wake Up
6/ Little House of Savages
7/ 138th Street
8/ Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone
9/ Four Provinces
10/ Dónde Está la Playa
11/ Angela Surf City
12/ Red Moon
13/ Canadian Girl
14/ I Lost You
16/ All Hands and the Cook
18/ Thinking of a Dream
19/ We’ve Been Had
Hamilton Leithauser vocals.
Paul Maroon guitar.
Peter Bauer keyboards and bass.
Walter Martin keyboards and bass.
Matt Barrick drums
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I’ve loved music since forever. Graphic designer, photographer and artist at painted.papillon.smile (www.ppsdesign.co.uk)