Mark Shields 01/11/2008
The walls of Stereo are bare concrete, with bits of years of neglect and construction marking the slightly dilapidated venue with a faux history. The effect is something they were obviously going for, hampered by the pillar in the middle of the dance floor and 10 foot in front of the stage, and hampered too by the height and narrowness of the room. The dilapidated emergency exit sign to the left of the stage flashes on and off. Intentional or not, the light flickers surprisingly in time with The Walkmen's steadfast vocalist Hamiliton Leithauser singing.
It is annoying that a band with such luscious musical arrangements, ones that are so integral to the story being told and the atmosphere being painted, have to play their Glasgow gig in such a barren and sonically wasteful arena. The style of the bar and venue seem to be good, the pints were cool and the atmosphere respectful, but the gig hall was lacking in ambience.
The band worked their socks off and to their credit managed to make warm, deep, bass ridden sonorous waves at a maximum all most all the way through their set. Heavy on tracks from their new record, the simply stunning You & Me, the band whisk their way through the opening track, with some people in the gig not paying attention.
It is an unfortunate fact that The Walkmen are the antithesis to The Strokes. Borne of the same period, but with much different influences, the music press at the time bundled the two together in the Nu-NY scene that also gave us The Rapture and Interpol. The Walkmen are simply of a different breed musically. The majority of the crowd are happy to see the band rumble through some of their slower tracks, apologising for the lack of brass on Red Moon to a wry smile from the crowd; a few in the gathered mass are waiting for one track, and to move from What's In It For Me? To The Rat is a sly nod to those old fans who love that track and also a nod to those who think of the band as that early noughties rock band.
The band probably didn't need to play The Rat - there is no need to keep dredging up music from the past. When an artist can perform for an hour without playing their 'hits' and still have the crowd content, it is a sign of a maturing audience and a maturing band. They were not spectacular or outlandish, but were definitely not boring. The venue was wrong for the rolling drumming and sprinkling of honky-tonk piano, but the band compensated for it. King Tuts would have been better. The Walkmen are certified great. Stereo, it is suspected, not so much.