The Walkmen are on the form of their lives right now. The New Yorkers are back in action, hitting the UK for their first tour on these islands for a decade.
A band whose catalogue is replete with riches, The Walkmen make a stake for their legacy – and their continued vitality – with these stunning shows. The band hit All Points East at the weekend, drawing a massive crowd to the West Stage.
Taking a short breather, The Walkmen then launched themselves into three – count ’em – sold out shows at North London’s KOKO, drawing fans across the land and beyond to the refurbished venue.
Surging into each performance as if their lives depended on it, The Walkmen are staking their claim to be one of the finest live bands around – no ifs, no buts, no maybes.
Photographer Rachel Lipsitz got up close. Susan Hansen with the words below.
North London’s Koko venue is a fitting space for a band to take on a three night spell. Such a veritable truth is even more resonant when the band in question is The Walkmen. With all eyes firmly set on Camden, the band demonstrate supreme form, kicking off the first night in distinguished fashion.
While the sold out show offers immediate, feel-good vibes and excitement, there’s more to it than that. Tonight’s crowd knows the band well, they have seen them several times before, and are not happy with any kind of show. They want quality.
In all fairness, Hamilton Leithauser and his cohorts are here to deliver it. A balanced display of focus, energy and intelligence, the unfolding show increases in intensity and force, as it moves seamlessly from song to song.
The eighteen track setlist, plus an encore of two, means that there’s plenty of material for the body and mind to be absorbed in. Starting out with the striking ‘What’s In It For Me’, closely followed by the intimate sentiment of ‘On the Water’, before launching into the extraverted ‘In the New Year’, a mercurial intro is nicely drawn up.
With Leithauser on vibrant form, you have a singer who understands the nuanced ins and outs of timing. Choosing his moments with care, he converses with the crowd, with the insertion of dry joke material in select places.
At slight risk of dropping their biggest hit a tad early, a ferocious delivery of ‘The Rat’ does nothing but elevate the crowd, it’s a suitable state to find yourself in, when sixteen tracks remain. Not that it feels that way, the buzz persists throughout, as the crowd is taken through the expansive menu.
Elsewhere on set, the krautrock-indebted ‘Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone’, the dramatic quality of Dónde Está la Playa, the exposed energy of ‘Angela Surf City’ and the emotional ‘I Lost You’, propel the already known fact that The Walkmen are purveyors of magnetic, high quality gig experiences.
Combined, the maintenance of distortion, but keeping everything crystal clear, tonight offers the perfect blend of characteristics to keep a crowd as smart as this one, stimulated. As things approach the point of grand finale, an overriding sense of reaching fulfilment dominates, it’s time for ‘Heaven’. It’s a moment where a clever bit of scheduling becomes spinetingling magic.