Beach House and The Walkmen @ The Henry Fonda Theater
Photo by Leslie Kalohi for the LAist.
Baltimore's Beach House performed their synthesized pop before a huge crowd at the Fonda Theater on Tuesday night. With her long hair, heavily ringed fingers, and dark clothing, Victoria Legrand, gave off the appearance of a gothic lady that got lost looking for her heavy metal band, wandered into this indie troop, and decided to stick around. Her voice had all the appeal of glazed doughnut that had been left under the couch for a few weeks. It was very sweet, very sticky, kinda fuzzy (it was hard to make out the words), and not all that appealing.
The heavy plodding pop had no zeniths or nadirs, but steadily marched along in a comforting warm sort of lullaby. With the incredibly monotonous drum line that I would compare to the footsteps of a giant (as in Jack and the beanstalk) I came to the conclusion that if giants had lullabies for their children, Beach House has written a series of songs that would suit them perfectly. The most lively thing in that band was guitarist, Alex Scally, who weaved intricate licks into an otherwise bland performance. He was the brown sugar in their oatmeal if you will.
The Walkmen - In the New Year
After Beach House finished their sleepy set, The Walkmen emerged from the foggy green mists of the stage with their newly acquired...horn section? Yes, men baring two trumpets and two trombones joined the band on stage. They had been acquired from all over the country by the Walkmen via Craigslist. (Is there anything on Craigslist you can't find?) Two were native Angelenos, from the Valley and Hollywood respectively. Why do I bring the horn section up? Because they were the second best damn thing on that stage and they deserve the highest praise. They provided the perfect foil for Hamilton Leithauser's voice, and anyone who has ever heard the Walkmen know that that voice is the reason for the Walkmen's greatness.
Hamilton Leithauser does not have a pretty voice, by any stretch of the imagination. It's got a really odd, almost off quality to it. I suppose the closest comparison would be Bob Dylan's which has a similar nasal tone. It is an acquired taste, no doubt about it. I'll admit it, on recordings I don't care for it much. But live it is an entirely different beast. In a white shirt and leather jacket, Hamilton Leithauser let his voice rip, full-throttle through the crowd's very core. Tightening his grasp on the microphone, he sang as if he was drowning and the microphone was his only source of oxygen. Within seconds, everyone in the audience knew this guy is not fucking around.There was a passionate almost violent desperation to his delivery that cannot be faked.
The fact that the concert had fallen on a magnificent day in our country's history was not lost on the band. They dedicated their tune In the New Year to the Obamas, which drew a cheer from the crowd. There was one guy, who thought that this was a perfect time to start chanting, "Obama! Obama!" which everyone ignored. Some people have no timing.
For the encore the Walkmen played their hit We've Been Had which launched them into the public eye in a commercial for the Saturn Ion. And the lovely thing about it was that, it paled in comparison to what this band is creating right now. Their album You & Me, which has been mentioned in tons of critics Best Albums of the Year lists (including NPR, Pitchfork, and other tastemakers) has shown the Walkmen grow and experiment. Usually when a band plays there old hit, you reminisce about the old times when they wrote that one great song. It is a rare thing to enjoy the new stuff more than the classic hits at a concert, but boy the Walkmen are leaps and bounds beyond where they were before.