The Walkmen | 01.17.13

walkmen 75Despite a freezing day inside the Newport Music Hall, vocalist Hamilton Leithauser was hoarse and drenched in sweat by the end of the show, every bit the leading man.

Newport Music Hall
Columbus, Ohio

Since 2002, The Walkmen have been primarily known for their very unique sound and style. The band takes great lengths and efforts to make sure that every track on each one of their releases fits perfectly in their catalog. They have succeeded all the way up through the final track on their excellent 2012 album, Heaven, giving their fans a reason to pick up every new record. For years, they have honed their craft by touring and playing small venues until recently, when their popularity has allowed them to move up in audience size. It’s clear when scouring their set lists that every song was molded and honed first in front of an audience before being studio recorded. This enhances their live shows greatly, as the band takes painstaking lengths to get their sound just right.

As a result, even their softer and slower songs resonate very well live. They have no trouble keeping the audience captivated, as they did from the moment they started “The Rat,” from 2004’s Bows + Arrows. As they poured through a set heavy on songs from their last two releases, Lisbon and Heaven, it could not be argued that The Walkmen were fiercely intense and focused. It’s clear they pour everything they have into their shows. For example, despite a freezing day inside the Newport Music Hall, Hamilton Leithauser was hoarse and drenched in sweat by the end of the show, every bit the leading man. Leithauser’s presence is actually such that it can be difficult to pay attention to the rest of the band, although their energy and precision was a welcome addition. He is powerful and composed, and his voice is note-perfect to the finished album cuts, which is a refreshing rarity in today’s live music scene.

Unfortunately, the crowd was a little less than impressive. Columbus’s alternative music scene is influenced greatly by the playlists of The Alternative Station, CD102.5. Their DJs are responsible for much of the community’s exposure to many artists. In fact, so much so that many often comment that Columbus is like a second hometown because of fan support of shows like this. As a result, the 1,700-capacity venue was nearly filled. However, The Walkmen have received much less airplay in Columbus than their opener, Father John Misty. The former member of the Fleet Foxes was obviously a very big draw, as the crowd began to thin out after his set. To me, it was unfathomable that many fans would choose to leave, but it was their loss, as there was still plenty of good music left to be heard.

Still, Father John has to be given the utmost credit, because he was an absolute delight, as well. He crammed a lot into his almost hour-long opening set as he tore through crowd favorites like “Nancy From Now On” and “I’m Writing a Novel.” His set was certainly highlighted by closing with an extended version of “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” with the crowd bellowing along. Likely, he will be headlining his own show the next time we see him here in Columbus.

Concerts can be expensive these days, when adding in fees, drinks, and parking; as a result, it’s really nice to see such a bargain show. It isn’t often that you can see two talented, exciting, and energetic bands at one show for under $20. Either The Walkmen or Father John Misty would have been worthy of the price tag on their own, but together, they put on one of the best shows for value that anyone could ask for. | Brett Berliner

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