The Walkmen and Father John Misty at the Vic | Review and photos
The Walkmen just can’t get enough of Tomorrow Never Knows. They played a sold-out gig at the Metro last year as a part of the festival, and this year they sold out the Vic with ex-Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman, who now tours as Father John Misty.
Tillman recorded FJM’s debut Fear Fun after moving from Seattle to L.A. and shedding some of the mystic folkie aura that surrounded him as a Fleet Fox. Last night, his opening set drew heavily from that album, a mix of rambling country rock and back porch folk fronted by newly funny lyrics. FJM played a loose, punchy set that fit their sound much better than the recordings do on Fear Fun, which still sounds a little buttoned up for the music. The clear highlight of FJM’s set was the morbid single “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” which included a noisy interlude where the lithe Tillman pretended to choke himself with the mic stand. If this hadn’t been preceded by a whole set of him parading around the stage and trying to goofily dance like a pop singer, I would have been more concerned.
The Walkmen opened their set with the one-two punch of “We’ve Been Had” and “The Rat,” older songs which have both aged beautifully. You get the sense from their new album Heaven that the quintet is more settled in their life than they were when they recorded the careening, sneering barnburner “The Rat” in the early 2000s, but they performed it with all the ferocity of a band ten years younger last night.
It looked like they might spend more of the night on older material at first, but they gradually worked in songs from their two most recent albums, the coastal-sounding Lisbon and the stately Heaven. As usual, frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s voice took center stage on powerful versions of “Thinking of a Dream I Had” and “All Hands and the Cook.” Newer songs wisely use his capacity for hoarse yells sparingly, although the set closer “Heaven” found Leithauser and the band pushing themselves, to great effect. Drummer Matt Barrick’s playing sounded great last night too, his non-traditional methods and tightly wound drive pushing the band through the 17-song set.
You could call the whole band itself non-traditional, too: When The Walkmen write a tune with a surf rock bounce (“Angela Surf City, for example), it’s not going to sound like any other surf tunes, it’s just going to sound like The Walkmen. Same goes for the early rock n’ roll pulse that anchors “On the Water,” or New Orleans brass which help “Stranded” crawl along. Honestly, I wouldn’t be disappointed if they played TNK again next year.
We’ve Been Had
All Hands and the Cook
Woe Is Me
Line by Line
Blue as Your Blood
Thinking of a Dream I Had
Angela Surf City
On the Water
In the New Year
We Can’t Be Beat
I Lost You