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Lost in Boston

The Walkmen slayed at Avalon: where the hell were you?
By VICKI G. SIOLOS  |  June 30, 2006

HAMILTON LEITHAUSER: A mixture of Dylan and Tom Waits.
Avalon can be a tricky place to perform, and not just because of the hordes of Red Sox fans congealing across the street. For local and touring bands alike, playing the thousand-plus capacity club is a sign you’ve arrived. The downside: it’s always more noticeable when the headliner performs to a half-empty room. Such was the case last night with New York City’s the Walkmen, though the low turnout wasn’t for lack of crafty songwriting and stage presence. Watching frontman Hamilton Leithauser clench his right hand around the mic and sing his big heart out, you couldn’t help but wonder how it is that, six years on and counting, this band is still consistently overlooked.

Leithauser took the stage with his four bandmates while the house lights still blazed, their modest entrance completely unnoticed for a few choice moments until the audience, catching on late, roared with applause. Launching right into “All Hands and the Cook,” Hamilton broke out his harshest Dylan-esque croon atop a fluttering delay of chiming guitars and a locomotive bass guitar. The band delivered the best of their latest record, A Hundred Miles Off, and though the most anticipated song in the set -- “Lost In Boston,” natch -- turned out to be less of an anthemic moment than you’d think, “Don’t Get Me Down” sounded perfect, with belted vocals that would’ve made Tina Turner proud.

It’s hard to say what keeps the Walkmen from earning a wider scope of attention. As a performer, Hamilton Leithauser is a mixture of Dylan and Tom Waits, possessed by his own compositions, but playing off them with a dose of Josh Homme-ish cool. Walkmen songs, both live and on record, want to be gigantic, which is probably why they used to draw comparisons to U2. They’ve continued to progress with each record, which is more than can be said for their openers, Radio 4 -- a band that began with a respectable update of danceable post-punk but has since Xeroxed its songs for each new album, and at Avalon might as well have been a Rapture cover band. The Walkmen provide a new look each time out, offering different takes on a saloon-swaggering, metropolitan theme. Misunderstood? Maybe, but that’s always been the purest fuel for a band on the run.

Related: The list is life, The Walkmen, Zombie sheep?, More more >
  Topics: Live Reviews , Entertainment, Music, Music Reviews,  More more >
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