Hamilton Leithauser - Live at The Lantern.Live review of the set at The Lantern, Colston Hall on March 9th
Live Review – Hamilton Leithauser at The Lantern, March 9th.
One of the things that drew me to the Walkmen was how ferociously Hamilton Leithauser delivered his vocals, which I first heard on their single, The Rat. A song they kind of distanced themselves from, a la Radiohead with Creep, as it almost became the anthem that defined them. So, it would be interesting to see how his current material worked live. I was excited and a bit apprehensive.
Three solo albums in, with the second and third being collaborations, he’s now reaching an audience which surpassed the level of his previous band. At a sold out Lantern, Hamilton runs through all ten tracks of his latest album, I had a dream that you were mine, a collaboration with ex Vampire weekend multi-instrumentalist Rostram Batmanglij. As well as three from his debut Black Hours album.
Playing as a four piece, which includes members of White Rabbits (Percussion gun), the material, covers similar territory to the Walkmen, swinging between Americana, doo wop, country, Dylanesque folk, flamenco and tender balladry.
Starting with Sick as a dog’s piano led stroll, into the rolling The Morning stars, where Hamilton’s roars start to surface. If you’ve never seen him sing live, you’ll wonder how he actually has a voice left at the end of a show, attacking the mic with more commitment and aggression than almost any singer I can think of.
Ethereal, haunting and heart wrenching
Next follows The Bride’s dad, a tale about a wedding he attended where the bride’s father made a speech, though as an uninvited, unwanted gatecrasher. It’s a euphorically, ramshackle, bar room style song, with a heart wrenching finale. As if you need proof of the strain his voice takes, before he launches into A thousand dreams, he needs to give his throat a spray, which as he repeats the title of the album over and over, with ever increasing roars you understand why it’s required.
The uptempo boppy Alexandra off his first album follows, again lyrically largely a repetition of the song title, named unsuccessfully after his daughter….. Georgina! Followed up by another track off his debut 11 O’Clock Friday night. Next up When the truth is…is a slow, brittle kind of ballad sweetened by Hamilton’s slide guitar work, then comes In a black out. Synced on a certain fruit named tech company’s recent ads. It’s an ethereal, haunting song, with an old western feel, almost a lullaby.
The Dylanesque start of You ain’t that you get kid, sees the audience in committed bopping mode, with added harpsichord reminiscent of Rostram’s former band. It’s a song that goes through several phases petering out to a grateful applause. I retired from his first album, then Peaceful morning from I had a dream, take things to slightly more country territory. The main set ends with Rough going (I won’t let up), another rolling song, which really takes from his love of doo wop. A great song to finish on which builds up to a fitting crescendo. The crowd goes wild, as he gratefully ad humbly accepts the audiences appreciation and then departs the stage.
I would have left a bit disappointed if they’d left it at that, not that I’d not loved the previous hour, but because my absolute favourite song off the album, hadn’t been played, 1959. They return to the stage and whereas the album version features the vocals of Angel Deradoorian, Hamilton says that it will be performed as originally recorded with him taking both parts. How the hell he can reach those notes after hammering his voice all night is a feat in itself. But the song, is just magical, dreamlike. It could be out of a dream sequence from a film in the forties. There’s not a noise in the crowd, everyone seems transfixed, with the audience erupting as the final notes play out. Again, he seems genuinely humbled that the room was full for him and takes his leave.
Whereas I came into the gig kind of lamenting the fact, I wasn’t seeing a Walkmen gig. Hamilton Leithauser deserves to be heard and recognised as an important artist in his own right. As someone said on the way out, Wow, what a voice. But it’s way more than just that.