I could have sworn I stood in the middle of a circle of people having a screaming contest with megaphones last night, but apparently I went to The Walkmen show at 9:30 Club in D.C.
There are two things that are initially striking about seeing this band live:
1. The lead singer is not the dark-haired moody that you picture from the albums but is a tall, blonde, Lacoste-wearing frat boy. He may as well be an SAE at Florida State.
2. They are LOUD.
The first item isn't too hard to get over, especially in comparison to discovering that the Caesars' bassist is about 60 years old. But the problem with The Walkmen live (and I've seen them twice) is that their sound is very disorganized. I like my music loud, but it seems like they fired their sound tech and turned every knob to 11.
What's great about their album tracks is that each song is carefully crafted, often very slowly building up emotional steam and growing louder and becoming unraveled as the song reaches climax. And the instruments are very well laid down, one doesn't drown out another, and it adds to the potential energy.
But this is entirely lost in the live show. There is no control of volume, nor control of vocals, and it really confuses the ear terribly. I don't think a live song should mimic the album, but this band's greatest strength is drowned in a poorly conceived stage show.
They must have played about 6 new songs, and since the album came out only 2 days earlier, few people would have a chance to hear it. We all heard them at the show, but I couldn't tell you which ones are winners because the sound was so cacaphonous.
To their credit, they delivered "The Rat," "Bows & Arrows," "Wake Up," and "Thinking of a Dream I Had" excellently, and it really got the crowd moving, including the requisite inhibitionless fist-pumping white guy with the crazy afro.
All in all, I give this show 3.0 stars out of 5.0, with Andrew W.K. being 5.0 and The Cardigans being 1.0.