Live Review

The Walkmen, HMV Institute, Birmingham

Tonight the band is hindered by the sub-par venue and impatient crowd.

Unfortunately, the lights from the two bars at either side of the Institute tonight are so bright that the room’s not even close to being dark as The Walkmen come on stage. Then again, at the city’s other mid-sized venue, the Academy, everything is lit neon blue - it could be worse.

The New York five-piece get straight into playing, starting off with an instrumental number, but by the second song it’s clear the sound levels aren’t quite right, and frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s vocals are distorted. You can hear he’s singing, but it’s impossible to make out the words. The first few songs are then, unsurprisingly, a bit uncomfortable, and the band seem unsettled. However, by the time the band play anthemic favourites ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘Angela Surf City’, the sound problems are cleared up and they seem more at ease. The performance is very focused on Leithauser, with the other band members barely moving and the lights completely neglecting the (rather talented) drummer. This, however, is not entirely a bad thing; he’s a great frontman with lots of energy.

The audience seem to enjoy the loud, sing-along numbers much more than anything else. Perhaps the band pick up on this, as their set goes on to focus on the anthems in their catalogue, playing to the surprisingly raucous crowd. When the slower numbers are played, the audience seem bored, and don’t even attempt to hide the fact they’re talking rather loudly during some of the most musically interesting parts of the set. The one slow song which the crowd did enjoy was ‘We Can’t Be Beat’. And despite enjoying it, they then ruin it by singing along both out of tune and time when the band stop to let Leithauser drag out a vocal solo line. Predictably, there is an encore, during which the band bring out lively fan favourite, ‘The Rat’.

It is clear that The Walkmen are a great live band. Their songs work brilliantly in front of an audience, Hamilton Leithauser is full of energy, and they’re all talented musicians. Tonight, however, the band is hindered by the sub-par venue and impatient crowd. Through no fault of their own, it proves a disappointing set.

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