Friday, March 24, 2023

CONCERT REVIEW: Walkmen play to romanced crowd at Union

March 5, 2004
Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser preforms with The Walkmen on Thursday night at the MSU Ballroom. —

It seems that almost everybody at The Walkmen show on campus Wednesday night got the memo.

Hand-clapping is out.

Nodding and toe-tapping are done.

Dancing and singing are so last week.

There was pleasant chatter in post-show conversations about the New York-based quintet's set, mixing up old tunes with more recent tracks from its new album "Bows + Arrows."

But there were only a few ways the crowd managed to show its appreciation: Ducking out before a short, but charming encore, yelling at the wrong moments and nuzzling significant others.

That's right - nuzzling.

Vocalist Hamilton Leithauser says show smooching at Walkmen shows is nothing new. A couple in Portland was playing kissy-face, indoor sports at his feet during a show there. They've noticed an abundance of cuddling at most of their shows. In East Lansing, band members scanning the crowd said they could see it was indie Valentine's Day.

It seems The Walkmen's brand of piano-spiked hard rock inspired love.

After all, drummer Matt Barrick kept time better than a beating heart during the show at the Union Ballroom. He showed off his talent during "The Rat," playing quick and seemingly complicated rhythms with an elated look on his face.

And, there was passion other than in the crowd.

Leithauser's vocals were loud and strained, making it seem like he could lose his voice at any second. Fortunately, he kept it together for 12 songs and a beautiful two-song encore.

There's poetry, too, although a bit more like Bruce Springsteen than Cyrano de Bergerac. Songs such as "Thinking of A Dream I Had" seem loud and fast, only to break into a slick statement of hoping for a dream to come true while waiting for the train that could take you there.

While the acoustics in the Union Ballroom coupled with the volume of two guitars sometimes marred the sound of lyrics, there was no mistaking the hugely memorable chorus from their Jonathan Fire*Eater-esque "Little House of Savages": "Somebody's waiting for me at home/I should have known."

And there was light-hearted happiness, like what came with the circus-type melody on "We've Been Had," from the band's first album, "Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone."

But The Walkmens' greatest strength isn't that they're a noise band suitable for make out background music. Having all the characteristics of every other rock group, from overtly loud guitars, driving percussion and mic-enveloping vocals, the band incorporates the piano and organ so well during the live show that it's hard to tell when the sound leaves.

Walter Martin's electric organ was a constant, driving feature, giving understanding to those reviews that compare this group of young men to the seasoned epic musicians from U2.

The Walkmen had a swaggering musical affair on stage, despite the quiet audience, apparently too wrapped up in romance to bother with rowdiness that band members expected from its collegiate audience.

Jamie Gumbrecht can be reached at


Share and discuss “CONCERT REVIEW: Walkmen play to romanced crowd at Union” on social media.