After a surprisingly winning performance from the klezmer band Golem (that Aaron Diskin—what a mustache! what moves!), the pressure was on the Walkmen to deliver a show worthy of the large hometown crowd (sorry, New York, these guys belong to DC) gathered at the 9:30 Club on Saturday night. So how did Hamilton Leithauser and the rest of the band rise to the challenge? They went for broke—playing a solid collection of songs that mixed classics such as “What’s in It for Me?,” “Wake Up,” and “Louisiana” with new material from their album You & Me.
The audience went especially crazy over the unexpected performance of “The Rat” and the show-closing “Little House of Savages.” But it was songs like “On the Water,” with its haunting whistling, and the trombone and trumpet sounds in “Canadian Girl” and “New Country” that showcased the band’s ambition and attention to detail.
Leithauser, whose vocals are often compared to Bob Dylan’s, put on a vein-busting performance, with a wailing so visceral that at times it seemed the singer was bending backward from the effort. But at Saturday’s show, not even Leithauser could compete with the surprise appearance of the Walkmen’s sixth member, bassist/organist Pete Bauer’s son. Taking the stage during the performance of “Louisiana,” the cute kid drew immediate “awws” from the crowd as he worked his way toward his father’s lap.
Bauer, bless him, couldn’t hide his excitement. And, for the Walkmen, neither could we.