Reunited and It Feels So Good: The Walkmen Don’t Miss a Beat at Webster Hall
April 25, 2023
The Walkmen – Webster Hall – April 24, 2023
They say good things come to those who wait. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. They say the Walkmen are one of the best bands to come out of New York City during the 2000s. These statements all rang true on Monday night, the first of five sold-out shows at Webster Hall for the recently reunited Walkmen, fresh off a decade-long hiatus as a band with some very successful solo careers sprinkled in along the way.
“We’ve played many great shows here at Webster Hall. I think the first time we played here, this tiny band from Baltimore that we all loved called Beach House opened for us,” recalled singer Hamilton Leithauser. There’s a strong case to be made that Leithauser should top the list of best singers of the rock-revival era that birthed the band, founded in 2000. Singing loud and at the top of his range, there was no sonic separation between his voice and the hundreds of fans singing back to him on songs like the epochal “The Rat” or the high-reaching “In the New Year.” At their full steam, the combination of Matt Barrick’s frenetic drumming and Leithauser’s vocals plowed through the venue like a freight train.
There was also a notable absence of dust to be shaken off for five musicians who hadn’t played together in 10 years, other than a televised performance last week on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and a tour-kickoff show in Rhode Island. The Walkmen have always sounded tight-knit, rising from the ashes of past bands Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Recoys, and in the case of Leithauser and multi-instrumentalist Walter Martin, blood-related cousins.
Few rock bands outside of the classic examples (the Band) so aptly feature the organ. On “All Hands and the Cook” a wavering ocean of organ tones kept the song afloat like a ship at sea. The main set ended with a classic, “Heaven,” which, like many of the Walkmen’s best songs, holds within it a deep sense of wistful nostalgia. The five-piece returned for an encore featuring their original brass section, ending with the first song they ever wrote together at their studio space, Marcata Recording, in the year 2000, while Leithauser was attending NYU, “We’ve Been Had.” “Any NYU students here? Go Violets,” joked the frontman to the attentive, adoring crowd. “I wrote this song in a philosophy of literature class where I was not listening to a single word of what the man was saying.” —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks