The Walkmen @ Project House, Leeds, UK, August 22, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Walkmen

The Walkmen @ Project House, Leeds, UK, August 22, 2023,

Aug 24, 2023 Photography by Shaun Gordon Web Exclusive
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When looking back at music that shaped the 21st century, one band whose name deserves a mention are The Walkmen. Having formed in 2000 out the ashes of seminal post-punk quintet Jonathan Fire*Eater and perhaps lesser known outfit The Recoys, the (then) Washington DC based five-piece went on to release six critically acclaimed albums over a thirteen-year period that established them as one of the most consistent musical forces from that era. As with all good things, The Walkmen story seemingly came to an end as 2013 drew to a close having embarked on another successful tour for sixth and final long player Heaven.

One of the many facets that set The Walkmen apart from many of their contemporaries was the seemingly innocuous panache they had to deliver the unexpected at any given time. Never constrained by style or genre, The Walkmen’s sound as such could never be defined or pigeonholed into any one, specific compartment. Yet at the same time their music always was instantly recognisable as being that of The Walkmen. So, when the band announced last December they’d be reuniting for some shows in 2023, it’s probably fair to say a lot of people jumped for joy at the prospect of seeing a band many thought would never share a stage again.

While 2004’s Bows & Arrows arguably remains their most popular record, probably due in no small part to it featuring “The Rat”, undoubtedly The Walkmen’s best known song. Every record that followed heralded a new side to the band’s make-up, each one taking them to places they’d never been before. Indeed, if anyone reading this is unfamiliar with The Walkmen’s output I’d probably urge them to start from the end (2012’s Heaven) and work backwards, such are the rich endeavours of the band’s later works. But that’s just me, yet is also hugely indicative of a band whose fanbase represents so many different eras. Indeed, stand ten Walkmen fans in line and ask them for their favourite song and album and you’ll most likely hear ten different answers (as we did this evening when the band politely asked for audience requests rather than sticking to the pre-planned encore choices but more of that later).

So, here we are in Leeds (eventually after a tortuous three-and-a-half hours drive full of road closures and diversions that cause us to miss the support act, Roddy Woomble’s Almost Nothing) at the city’s newest music venue, Project House. A collaborative venture between some of the city’s most established independent promoters, Project House is situated in a former tile warehouse in the Armley Road district and is eerily reminiscent of many warehouse spaces that emerged during the 1980s as dance and rave culture took over the underground then the mainstream. It’s also one of the most customer friendly spaces Under the Radar has visited in recent months, its wide open spaces making access and vantage points amenable from every angle.

Having played a number of shows and festivals already this year including Green Man in the Welsh Brecon Beacons, tonight represents The Walkmen’s first show in a UK club venue for over a decade, and with a back catalogue of so many riches to choose from, we’re spoiled from the outset. Opening with a trio of songs off 2010’s fourth long player You & Me, released on UK independent Fierce Panda whose head honcho Simon Williams is also in attendance this evening. It feels like the calm before the storm as a soothing “Donde Esta La Playa” builds and grows before erupting into a furious “On The Water” and anthemic “In The New Year”, vocalist Hamilton Leithauser removing his jacket almost to signal the party having started.

Backed by guitarist Paul Maroon, bass player/keyboard player/multi-instrumentalists Walter Martin and Peter Bauer plus drummer Matt Garrick, it feels like they’ve never been away such are the taut deliveries of each and every song. Rather than play a chronologically arranged set, tonight’s show provides a career spanning showcase of The Walkmen’s finest compositions. Whether it be “Juveniles” or “Woe Is Me” off 2010’s Lisbon or “All Hands And The Cook” off 2006’s understated third record A Hundred Miles Off. Every song here hits the spot, and some.

Unsurprisingly, the double whammy of “The Rat” and “Little House Of Savages” towards the back end of the set receives rapturous applause, as does Leithauser’s story about the time they played The Cockpit in Leeds and encountered “the worst sound engineer in history!” Closing the main set on “Heaven”, the title track and only song played off their last album. Leithauser then invites the audience to request what they want to hear in the encore, ditching “I Lost You” from the setlist for a heartfelt rendition of “Louisiana”, the opener off the aforementioned A Hundred Miles Off.

Ending on a triumphant “We’ve Been Had”, the first song the band ever wrote together. Leithauser then makes his way to the barrier to shake hands with all and sundry while the band play out its final notes. If anything, tonight felt like a celebration, a moment to cherish. Let’s hope there’s more shows to savour, even if new material seems unlikely at present.


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