Published Jan 17, 2013Both the Walkmen and Father John Misty released fantastic, Americana-influenced albums in 2012, so it seemed only natural that the groups bring their live shows together for a tour through the East and West Coast. The Toronto stop at the befittingly refined Danforth Music Hall will be hard to forget for those lucky enough to have attended.
Father John Misty entered from stage-left in a rather timid manner, but the group's ruffled demeanour was quickly forgotten as the performance began with a bevy of psych-folk numbers off of Fear Fun. Leader Joshua Tillman easily escaped the delicate sound of his past work with the Fleet Foxes as he banged through album cuts like "I'm Writing a Novel," which was performed like a classic barn-burner. The entire group performed fine-tuned arrangements, filling in vocal harmonies where needed while adding unique instrumental touches that elevated the songs past their recorded form.
Tillman strutted across the stage like an amusing and awkward version of a country-music-playing Jim Morrison, using hand gestures and hip gyrations to emphasize his cryptic lyrics. The showmanship compiled itself into a confident display of control during the set-ending "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings," which divulged itself into a mess of fuzz and delay. As the song came to a crashing end, signalled by Tillman's controlled outbursts, it was immediately clear the Father John Misty had both entertained and dazzled the excited Toronto crowd.
After the careful display of talent and style from Father John Misty, the crowd on both the ground and balcony levels waited eagerly for the show to continue. The Walkmen began abruptly and with purpose, playing a succession of singles from many different albums. Interestingly, the group riled the crowd up with "The Rat" quite early in their set, causing tension and anticipation as to what songs could outdo the last. Tracks from their latest album, Heaven, were displayed proudly and received some of the loudest admiration. The most consistently interesting part of the Walkmen's set was their ability to dig deep into their catalogue and rearrange songs to fit the sounds and themes of their latest album. "138th Street" is nearly 10 years old, but their live rendition sounded like it was fresh off of Heaven.
The Walkmen act like they belong on a stage. From their somewhat formal introductions to the ease in which they manipulate their songs, it is clear they intend to give the audience a quality show. Hamilton Leithauser's voice can dig deep or scrape the rafters in one song, and the rest of the group stays afloat regardless of any hiccups.
Closing their set with "We Can't Be Beat" was quite fitting, as the crowd and the band themselves bounced and smiled their way to the track's celebratory refrain. As the Walkmen sauntered off the stage and the house music began to fill the venue, there stood groups of individuals with dumbfounded expressions unable to make their leave.
To see Exclaim!'s Walkmen photo gallery, courtesy of Fil ZuZarte, head here.