Arts, Off Campus

Boston Calling Day 3: The Walkmen Return After Decade-Long Hiatus

The Walkmen had not existed for a decade just one month prior to their show at Boston Calling on May 28. After years without the band’s presence in the rock scene, lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s vocals graced the stage once more for a reunion tour across the United States and Europe. 

Performing on the Blue Stage before King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, The Walkmen entertained a smaller and older crowd, setting up for an intimate show for fans. 

Dressed in black and white, with bassist Peter Bauer in a suit, the band walked on stage and greeted the audience, starting its set with “Dónde está la playa.” Excitement brewed in the audience as crowd members began to jump and sing along to the lyrics. 

“On the Water” followed, with Leithauser communicating the song’s message of not being able to change life’s progression. 

The show’s tone shifted as the crowd and The Walkmen got comfortable and launched into “In the New Year,” another song from You & Me. The track has several high points, forcing Leithauser to reach the notes with passionate vigor. Its sound encapsulates a lot of what makes up The Walkmen’s discography—a heavier alternative to garage-rock with belting vocals. 

Leithauser spoke to the audience to explain the journey that brought The Walkmen back together and the obstacle of distance that kept him and his bandmates apart. The band members went their separate ways—from Spain to Los Angeles—after their last album was released in 2012. 

Once “In the New Year” got the crowd lively, “The Rat,” brought the energy of the show to a climax. The biggest Walkmen hit “The Rat” showcases the band’s grunge songwriting, in addition to the talent of human drum machine Matt Barrick. His fast breakdowns accompany the loud cracking desperation in Leithauser’s vocals. 

“You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favor / You’ve got a nerve to be calling my number / I’m sure we’ve been through this before,” Leithauser sang. 

Prefacing “Four Provinces,” Leithauser spoke about the band’s origins in New York City and his hometown in Washington, D.C. 

Many of The Walkmen’s lyrics follow themes of growing up, the passage of time, and reminiscing past romances. 

“Angela Surf City,” one of the heavier songs in its set, enticed many fans to shout the lyrics. Leithauser took the mic stand with him as he leaned in toward the crowd while Bauer spun around with his bass in hand. 

“I used to see the signs / Now I dream of the time / I was holding onto you / For a lack of anything to do,” Leithauser sang. 

Leithauser also mentioned the connection he has to Boston, Mass. The Walkmen frontman went to Boston University and joked about his ineligibility to be a Harvard student, peeing on the John Harvard statue, and his rivalry with Blanchards Liquors in Allston, Mass. 

The set included fan favorite, “Heaven,” from The Walkmen’s final album of the same title. The track features the same recognizable Walkmen sound in an otherwise different musical style in the album. Heaven moved away from The Walkmen’s typical harsher vocal tones and is more aloof and less cohesive than previous releases. 

“Heaven” also inspired fans to sing along and enjoy the classic bittersweet tone of the band’s music. 

After commenting on the brevity of his set, Leithauser introduced the final song of the evening as the sun began to set. 

“On our first band practice ever, this was the first thing that we wrote, day one, and we thought this didn’t sound half bad, so we’d give this band a shot … this is ‘We’ve Been Had,’” Leithauser said. 

Paul Maroon played the repeating piano theme as the show came to a close with the nostalgic song. Leithauser thanked the crowd for coming and jumped onto the floor as the band extended the instrumental ending. The lead singer ran down the aisle to greet fans and say goodbye to the Boston tour stop. 

June 7, 2023