The Walkmen – Oran Mor 19/01/2011

If you have been reading our blog lately or follow any of us on Twitter, you will know that times have been busy round ‘ol Elba way.  It is with that in mind that I present you with tales of live music, long overdue.  Two astonishing acts in two weeks have left me with a boundless energy and enthusiasm to fill my calendar with adventures new. This year has already been so very good to us.  The time has come to reflect a little.  I will talk about one today, the other later in the week.

The Walkmen are a band that I have always appreciated.  Yet, I feel it is important to note that they are a band who troubled me slightly.  There was something about them that I just did not ‘get’ on record. Often it can take experiencing a band live to finally hammer home what it is you did not (but should have) understood previously.  I learned this at the Oran Mor; a gig that seemed a peculiar but welcome addition to the Celtic Connections 2011 programme. For all the richness of their production, it wasn’t until I was getting battered with their distinct New York twang in person that my eyes widened and I felt like I had finally awoken.

In The New Year was certainly the first song that roused the above revelation and that also put emphasis on how reliant the band are on Hamilton Leithauser’s voice.  Indeed how he manages to retain a voice when the man sings somewhere between a nasal and throaty yell with perfect control and an ability to project an inordinate volume really does leave you wondering.

Latest album Lisbon’s outing was a proud one.  Blue As Your Blood bounced along on its 50s guitar riff. Victory was fantastic live realization of the pivotal ‘sound’ of the album.  While I Shovel The Snow was truly beautiful live; delicately scored with a full band tinkering away, perfecting the distant and subtle delicacies of the song to the reverent crowd. Stranded was played, apologetically, without any brass and was as moving without, as it is with, what you would think to be the pinnacle of the track.

The Rat, of course, rallied the crowd during the encore.  It is a song that speaks greatly to its audience. It is a miserablist and aggressive narrative, entirely indulgent and wholly intoxicating.  The chants around me of the infamous bridge had me wondering what heartache had fallen upon these many men.  You can read this and assume that I am being overly flighty but a lot of the testosterone heavy crowd were croaking as they left the venue as a result of screaming along for those four charged minutes.

Many things about The Walkmen can be appreciated live.  Whether that be their their strength of catalogue or instrumental precision; particular emphasis put on Matt Barrick.  But to appreciate The Walkmen is to live them.

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