Hamilton Leithauser: Live! At Café Carlyle (Glassnote) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, January 25th, 2021  

Hamilton Leithauser

Live! At Café Carlyle

Glassnote

Sep 09, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


I was fortunate to be on hand for one of The Walkmen’s last live sets and also catch Hamilton Leithauser solo in one of the best shortened and frenetic festival sets I have ever seen. But here we get Leithauser in the more relaxed and regal setting (jackets required folks) of New York City’s Café Carlyle. Leithauser and his combo had a run of dates here in early 2020 before the venue and The Carlyle hotel itself shuttered due to COVID-19. The hotel and café remain dark for the moment, but Live! At Café Carlyle brings back the ghosts of not so long ago. 

The album assembles five Leithauser originals, most pulled from this year’s The Loves of Your Life, along with an equal measure of interesting cover songs. Backed by a cooking little combo that includes upright bass, piano, and a bona fide backup singer in Lacrisha Brown, the warmth of the cozy confines translates well. Leithauser’s solo material has tended to fall somewhere between sea shanty sing-along and cabaret, and here he leans hard into the showcased environs. Randy Newman’s opening “Miami” is tailor made for the setting, Leithauser’s powerful voice, and the band’s capabilities. Populated with Newman’s oddball characters, Leithauser paints a picture of every New Yorker’s favorite escape. Unexpectedly, Panda Bear’s “Dolphin” is a great pick as the original’s electronic drips are subbed out by well timed bass notes. And Leithauser lets his vibrato fly on Lana Del Rey’s “The Greatest.” The Big Thief (“Not”) and Beach House (“Astronaut”) covers don’t fare as well outside of their original realms. 

The friendly and no doubt well-served crowd also makes for a great audience to try out some of Leithauser’s forthcoming songs. The intro to “The Stars of Tomorrow” is particularly charming, about his chance meeting with the subject of the song. And the ensuing song sparkles hard in the story’s aftermath. The jaunty “Isabella,” about a free-loading friend, makes for another highlight—backed by Leithauser’s wife, Anna Stumpf, on piano. The album overall fades a bit down the stretch with the intertwined vocals of “Don’t Check The Score” becoming a little much as the song goes on.  

Leithauser has kept himself busy during the lockdown operating out of his native Washington, D.C. Whether building chess sets, participating in racial equality protests, or gathering young and old family members into his ragtag band for impromptu recordings, Leithauser remains indie rock’s consummate renaissance man. His Tiny Desk (Home) Concert is bursting with heart, but Live! At The Caryle Café gives us a taste for what Lana Del Rey sums up best: “I miss New York and I miss the music.” Leithauser’s album brings you a touch of both. (www.hamiltonleithauser.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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