The Walkmen at Barfly Birmingham

On Thursday (18/02) we caught The Walkmen at Birmingham’s Barfly. It was a good night all round for music at the venue, with Asobi Seksu and It Hugs Back playing upstairs too.

walkmen_andywatson The Walkmen. Image by Andy Watson.

The Walkmen have managed to sustain the hype that surrounded their third album Bows + Arrows and the venue was filled with an atmosphere of expectation as they took to the stage. Bursting into ‘Dónde Está La Playa’, the opener from new album You & Me, they play rock music The New York Way, reminiscent of bands as disparate as Les Savy Fav, The Strokes and The National. It’s there in the guitars that artfully balance clarity with distortion, and rhythm section that keeps a steady buzz in your skin, preferring to strut its way to a climax rather than hurry there.

There’s an openness to the song structures that keeps their music thrillingly unpredictable, while flashes of surf-rock, woozy wurlitzers and punch-drunk polka add to that heady Manhattan mix. Hamilton Leithauser is everything you could want from a lead singer with his commanding air and a nasal sneer that carries with it Reed and Dylan in its ability to be aloof one moment and affecting the next (as on standout ‘In The  New Year’). We had to leave before they played breakthrough anthem ‘The Rat’ but were sure to pick up a copy of You & Me, which manages to recreate their dense, intricate yet immediate live sound.

Support came from promising seven-piece Mr. Bones & The Dreamers, who play country rock with punk passion and  a theatrical air, and A Boy Named Crow, who, despite an intriguing setup that heavily featured percussion, never really pulled off anything memorable.

The Walkmen – ‘In The New Year’

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