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The Walkmen - London Islington Academy - 25 Aug 2010 (Live Review)

Saturday, 04 September 2010 Written by James Conlon
The Walkmen - London Islington Academy - 25 Aug 2010 (Live Review)

It was a standard British August evening: rain was pouring torrentially and Islington academy was packed to near capacity. The crowd was a surprising mix of young, old and a plethora of A-list celebrities (The lead singer from Chapel Club and a Steven merchant look-a-like).

First up were support act Avi Buffalo, a three-piece band known for their sunny Californian pop hooks. They came onstage to a muted applause and launched head-first into an impressive set. Lead singer and guitarist Avi Buffalo stole the show, flooding the venue with intense his guitar strokes: with the layers of reverb and piercing delay, the casual listener would have been forgiven for thinking there were two or three guitarists on stage. Despite his hit and miss falsetto vocals, the band won over a tentative crowd with energetic performances of recent release What's In it for? and indie-pop anthem Remember Last Time.

The Walkmen have carved a long-standing following as a support act, festival underdogs and padding for the Indie chart toppers. However, as the band come on stage, faces to the ground, wearing smart shirts and shoes, it looks as if a London office has let off early. With minimal audience interaction, they launch straight into Blue as your Blood (the first of many tracks from their new album) shaking off any false preconceptions and stunning the crowd to a relative silence. The song drives into motion, with pulsing guitar strokes and wakes the audience into life. In The New Year, a song from the band's 2008 album You & Me is the first recognisable track and is treated to a loud applause from the first notes. It is here that vocalist Hamilton Leithauser comes into his own, blasting out the lyrics with almost sadist commitment. Despite the discordant guitar strokes and skilful ability from all corners of the stage, it is Leithauser's vocals which steal the show throughout, echoing over the audience with power and an incredible sense of melody.

Other highlights of the set included We've Been Had, a long time fan favourite and Woe is Me, a new song from the eagerly awaited new album, Lisbon. The lively song featured a bright, melodic guitar riff, maraca-fused percussion and restrained but tuneful vocals: judging from the reaction it is sure to be one of the favourites from the new release. The Walkmen are by no means one-hit wonders. However, as the opening guitar chords of The Rat burst across the venue the crowd give the loudest shout of the night. The band play it with passion and give a dedicated performance: it lacks the world-weariness that one might expect from the seventh-thousand rendition this year.

After a standard three minute break, the band shocked and surprised every member of the audience by coming on for an encore. The band played a serene version of New Country, performed just by Leithauser and lead guitarist Paul Maroon. The song enchanted the crowd with its tender vocals and floating arpeggios, proving that The Walkmen aren't just about the indie dancefloor fillers. As they close with their 2004 fan-favourite Thinking of a Dream I Had, it is clear that they have the maturity and passion as a band to stumble out of the wings and take some more extensive critical praise. One thing is certain: new release Lisbon is definitely one to watch out for.
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