tue 18/06/2024

The Walkmen, SWG3, Glasgow review - a classy return for New York's finest | reviews, news & interviews

The Walkmen, SWG3, Glasgow review - a classy return for New York's finest

The Walkmen, SWG3, Glasgow review - a classy return for New York's finest

There was still a tremendous power to the reunited quintet's material

Hamilton Leithauser howls as The Walkmen play GlasgowFiona McKinlay

As the relentless, hammering beat of “The Rat” faded away, the Walkmen’s singer Hamilton Leithauser was evidently in buoyant mood. “Like riding a bike,” he declared to the Glasgow crowd, and this was a statement that proved consistently accurate throughout the 75-minute set, as the reunited quintet played in a manner that felt like they’d never been away.

As Leithauser acknowledged, bringing the band back together after nine years is considerably more difficult than in their early days, when they thrived among New York’s clubs. Now the group are spread across the USA and, in the case of guitarist Paul Maroon, Spain, while the passing of time has added grey hairs to some of the group.

Of all the band, Leithauser remains the most unchanged, both in possessing the stage manner of a boxer gearing up for combat, and in his equally robust vocal style. When he hollers hardest, he still sounds like his soul is being forcibly removed from his body, and some of the night’s most thrilling moments came when that voice was matched by tumultuous noise from his bandmates, particularly the frantic drumming of Matt Barrick.

It was a fitting noise for a jaunt dubbed the “revenge tour” and towards the night’s end a viciously powerful doubleheader of “Angela Surf City” and “All Hands and the Cook” clattered with such venom that you feared for any target of their rage, while an earlier “Little House of Savages” had brooded ominously.

Yet the career-spanning set was a varied one. There was no new material offered at all, instead focusing around two of their finest records, 2004’s Bows and Arrows breakthrough and the bittersweet tone of 2008’s You & Me, with a smattering of others added in. That ensured the evening could start with the downbeat, unsettling “They’re Winning”, flit through loping alt country with “Canadian Girl” and end the regular set with the power pop rush of “Heaven”, the closest they’ve come to writing a full on sing-a-long, and a damn good one at that.

And then there is “The Rat”. It arrived early, five songs in, and remains an intoxicating shot of adrenaline, from Barrick providing an impeccable rhythm while flailing like Animal from the Muppets to Maroon’s sharp guitar and Leithauser’s howl of frustration. Nearly two decades old, it is still an outstanding rock song, even if the line “Now I go out alone, if I go out at all” may have hit home differently to more mature members of the crowd these days.

Perhaps it arrived a little too early, for a couple of quieter moments that followed, with the slow burning "Donde Esta La Playa" never quite igniting, and “Red Moon” sounding surprisingly timid. However those were the exceptions to the rule, and if the encore’s “Thinking of a Dream I Had” provided a garage rock snap, then a closing “We’ve Been Had" finished matters with bittersweet melancholy.

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