Some said it would never happen, but the news is true: The Walkmen are back. After more than 20 years since their inception and 10 years since their last release, new york indie rockers The Walkmen have come back from the dead for a much-needed U.S tour. Playing the first of 3 sold-out nights at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, The Walkmen reminded everyone why they should’ve never left in the first place, and why we still need them more than ever.
Before The Walkmen took the stage, opening act and surprising supergroup Taper’s Choice opened their set by saying, “We’re Taper’s Choice and we’re a jam band.” And for all 40 minutes of their set, that’s precisely what they did. Comprised of Alex Bleeker (Real Estate), Dave Harrington (DARKSIDE), Chris Tomson (Vampire Weekend), and Zach Tenorio-Miller (Arc Iris), the band – with only a guitar, bass, drums, and keys – tore through the jamiest tracks from their recent release, “History of Taper’s Choice: Volume 1.” The quartet regaled the crowd with very few words and lyrics, but offered plenty of guitar solos, scratchy drum beats, and funky basslines. Their tight-knit stage set up – which thankfully included a blown-up banana with a smiling face – proved to be an intimate hang out and groovy time.
The Walkmen – playing their first headlining show in Los Angeles since 2012 (aside from a quick stop at the Just Like Heaven Festival this past summer) – opened with the softly measured “What’s In It For Me.” Every inch of the Fonda Theatre, including the balcony above, was occupied by eager groups of fans. Only halfway through the first song and the crowd had become unglued, realizing it had been most likely more than a decade since any of them had seen The Walkmen. Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser grinned from ear to ear, realizing how many excited fans showed up for the first of three straight nights with the band. The following hour and 20-minute set proved to be a triumphant walk through the band’s back catalog, as well as a reminder of how much ground the band covered in less than 15 years together.
Much of the night’s setlist gave attention to the Walkmen’s second and most seminal record, Bows & Arrows. Upon hearing the first few notes of the band’s smash hit, “The Rat,” everyone roared with a sound that felt too big and loud for the small, intimate venue. Guitarist Paul Maroon played the song’s iconic riff with ease as Leithauser passionately sang into his microphone, dropping to his knees before the barricade and fans in the front row. Another hit from the 2004 record, “Little House of Savages” prompted a singalong from the crowd that certainly felt like a memorable snippet from the night.
Fans of the Walkmen’s 2008 record, You & Me, were most delighted as the band favored tracks from that record more than any other; “On The Water” and “In The New Year” opened the set early while “I Lost You” and “Canadian Girl” popped up in the back half. Die hard fans of the show How I Met Your Mother were probably tickled when the band closed their main set with “Heaven,” a track from their critically acclaimed 2012 album of the same name that also made an appearance in the series finale episode of HIMYM. Leithauser, who had mentioned at Just Like Heaven Festival earlier this year that he had no idea anyone still cared about The Walkmen, seemed pleasantly surprised to see how thrilled the crowd was responding to each song.
A most delightful throwback moment of the show was the band’s surprising inclusion in the encore: a pseudo-cover of Jonathan Fire*Eater’s “Impatient Talent Show.” Jonathan Fire*Eater was an indie rock band from the 90s whose three members went on to form The Walkmen in 2000, so the callback to the band’s earliest days felt very special. The band closed the show with a lively but emotional take on the 2022 deep cut, “We’ve Been Had.” The night felt like a perfect snapshot experience of a bygone era – the early to mid-2000’s garage rock revival, which has since turned out to be the true blueprint for massive rock acts still working today like Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, and The Killers. Artists like The Walkmen were and still are foundational to not only this genre, but a whole generation of rock music fans. The fact that they still put on a great show, still make a mark on their fans, and still feel committed to sharing their music with us proves that the Walkmen perhaps should’ve never left in the first place.