Monday, March 12, 2007

The Walkmen w/ the Broken West @ Schubas - 3/11/07

Fanboy alert.

There are bands who get on stage and lack the ability to re-create the magic of the recording studio. There are bands who get on stage and sound exactly like they do on their records, which is good, but not exactly what you want from the live experience. There are bands who, on stage, transcend what they're able to do on a record.

Then there are the Walkmen. From the opening note to the final farewell, it's pure, nonstop energy. Their albums are fantastic, but they were made for the stage. It's not so much a collection of instruments as it a cacophony of sound. It so loud, and so dense that it just hits you like a blast of wind. But amazingly, you're still able to pick out every distinctive sound present in their studio tracks. I saw these guys at Pitchfork last summer. A big open space isn't what they're best suited to. But get them in a tiny room packed with 160 people, like Schuba's, and they're really in their element.

First things first, the Broken West led the night off with a half hour of music from their new LP "I Can't Go On, I'll Go On." I'd listened to it about 8-10 times in the last week, and I was looking forward to their set. Pretty straightforward powery-pop type stuff. Pretty accessible and easy to listen to. They played (if I remember correctly):
  • Down in the Valley (see below)
  • So it Goes
  • On the Bubble
  • Shiftee
  • Big City
  • Slow
  • Brass Ring
It was a solid half hour of music.

Then the Walkmen came out, and I'm gonna be honest, they played a bunch of stuff I haven't heard before. And quite frankly, that would usually piss me off, but the way the night flowed, it didn't really bother me. It just cranked up the anticipation for the next song. In 2006, they released a song for song remake of Harry Nilsson's "Pussy Cats", so I'm guessing they played some stuff off of that. And let's get the negatives out of the way early: no We've Been Had; no Little House of Savages; no Emma, Get Me a Lemon. That did kind of suck, I'm not gonna lie. But what they did play was pretty amazing. Among the songs in the setlistsetlist:
  • Louisiana (assisted on horns by one of the guys from the Broken West, and some other guy) (see below)
  • All Hands and the Cook
  • Another One Goes By (still not as good as the Mazarin version)
  • They may have played Don't Get Me Down (Come on Over Here), but my memory is a little fuzzy
  • Wake Up
  • Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone
  • The Rat
  • They're Winning
  • Blizzard of '96
  • They also may have played the North Pole
Louisiana was clearly the highlight...until they played Wake Up, which was off the charts. And just when you think they couldn't get any better, they dusted off The Rat, which, well, I'll be honest. I have never stood through a better four minutes of live music than the version of the Rat that they played tonight. It's simply a song that was meant to be played live, to a small audience, with an incredibly loud mix. If I could bottle that four minutes...

On the downside, they skipped the tracks mentioned above, and they only played for about an hour. In their defense, it was 11:00 on a Sunday night, and it was their second show of the evening, and sitting through an hour, you'd wonder how they had the energy to go through that twice in one night.

The moral of the story is that if you get a chance to see a band this polished and this impressive in such a small venue, you need to do it. You won't be disappointed. Sample tracks below.

And I know they didn't play it, but I still love this song:

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