To accompany the announcement of their original run of shows in NYC, Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser wrote:
“Back in 2013, an unnamed Walkmen band member (Peter Bauer) announced to the Washington Post that we were going on an ‘extreme hiatus.’ I assumed that meant there would be a lot of monster energy drinks and maybe that red-headed snowboarder guy would be hanging around a lot…but none of that actually happened. Instead, in the ensuing years, we’ve all worked on a ton of different projects in a ton of different places. Recently, someone sent us a clip of us playing at Irving Plaza from 2003, and it just looked very exciting. So, we’ve decided we’d like to play together again. Right now, we are very thrilled to announce that we will be playing at Webster Hall in 2023. See you soon.”
Almost a decade ago, the D.C. 5-piece The Walkmen decided to go on an “extreme hiatus”. With this announcement back in November 2013 there was no timetable for a return to the stage or studio for the band, however as bassist/organist Peter Bauer put it “I don’t think we’ve been a gang properly for a long time, so there’s not much to break up, I guess.” Nine years later, almost to the day, the band announced a run of shows in the Northeast starting in April 2023 that has since expanded to several dates across the U.S. and select dates in Europe. What can likely be seen as a warm-up gig before their 5-night consecutive sold-out run at Webster Hall in NYC the post-punk revivalists showed little signs of rust as they ripped through various songs among their decade’s spanning catalog.
Opening the night, however, were the youngsters from NYC, Yeah Baby, whose dreamy shoegaze sound bathed the crowd with layered vocals and guitar washes. Front woman Hanna White and Sean Kwon traded vocal harmonies and guitar licks atop a steady rhythm section that included bassist Skye Skjelset (Fleet Foxes, Beach House, The Walkmen). With the exception of an oddly placed surf rock song, Yeah Baby’s set felt mature and more than just derivative of the gazers to precede them. I’m certain they left many in the audience googling their Bandcamp, post set, to hear more from the Walkmen endorsed.
Following a short intermission, the house lights dimmed and the crowd swelled in anticipation for the NYC via DC quintet. As the shadowy figures took to the stage under deep blue lights the opening licks to “Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone” rang out, signaling the gang was back for the first time in a decade. “It’s like riding a bike” lead singer Hamilton Leithauser reassured upon the closing licks of their opener.
Leithauser introduced their next track by sharing “Alright this one goes back to the very first Walkmen band practice of all time…which was in Harlem in the winter of 2000” before launching into “Wake Up” from the bands’ debut 2002 album Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone.
Between songs, an audience member shouted, “Welcome back!!!” To which, Leithauser responded with “Thank you. Thank you sir.” As the applause rang out he went on to invite the crowd to “buy that guy a beer”. The appreciative feeling was mutual between band and audience all night long. There was no pretension from the band, only a renewed sense of appreciation for what once was and currently had become.
“Alright, we’re gonna take this way back. This is probably the oldest jam we’re going to play all night.” Leithauser went on to explain how he was a senior in HS when 3 days into the “Blizzard of 96” his school canceled all final exams, making him the “happiest I’ve ever been in my life!” Following the final songs of their set which included such hits as “Little House of Savages”, “All Hands and the Cook” and finally “Heaven” the band bowed and thanked those in attendance for their first live show in a decade before exiting stage right.
Following a lighting blackout and a good five minutes of feet stomping and clapping calling the band back for an encore the band returned for a hearty farewell. “Thank you all! We appreciate it! There are a lot of other things you could be doing with your time. For instance, you could be like one of my daughters watching TikTok backstage five feet away from their dad’s band reunion.” Following cheers and a smattering of laughter from the crowd the band launched into a four-song encore starting with “Thinking of a Dream I Had” from their acclaimed sophomore release Bows + Arrows. With its iconic opening piano riff, the band said a final farewell in the form of “We’ve Been Had”. The crowd’s standing ovation could only be contained by the rise of the house lights sending the gleeful concertgoers toward the exits satiated for now but wanting more and more and more.
It’s safe to say “the gang” is properly reunited and reinvigorated, at least with the intent of once again playing the high-energy shows they’ve come to be known for! If you’re among the lucky few to have a ticket to one of their upcoming five sold-out shows at NYC’s Webster Hall count your blessings and enjoy the ride of the reunited.
The United Theatre, Westerly, RI, USA
APR 22 2023
In the New Year
On the Water
No Christmas While I’m Talking
Blue as Your Blood
Dónde Está la Playa
Angela Surf City
The Blizzard of ’96
New Years Eve
Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone
Little House of Savages
All Hands and the Cook
Thinking of a Dream I Had
I Lost You
We’ve Been Had