The Walkmen / Man Man Richard’s on Richards, Vancouver, BC August 28

If there was one word that described the Walkmen performance, it would be "reserved.” Or at least reserved compared to the fiery Walkmen shows of old, the ones where you could find a little sweat — a little piss mixed with the vinegar. But the softer, more low-key Walkmen of tonight was to be expected.

The New York five-piece have just released their most humble and laid-back effort thus far, You & Me, and onstage they were out to showcase this atmospheric piece of rock’n’roll, and little else. Opening with the album’s downbeat guitar-vocal ballad "New Country,” the Walkmen dug into their new material and rarely strayed from it, with the plan being to get under your skin slowly rather than knock you on your ass. And while there’s nothing wrong with this in theory, in practice the group had a hard time pulling it off.

The charming subtleties of the You & Me tracks often got lost in live translation, with there being few if any highlights to be found amongst all the slow brooding. And as far as stage presence went, there really wasn’t any.

While the band played stoically, front-man Hamilton Leithauser still put on his usual rock star pose, but he just didn’t get behind the new songs like he once did on past ones. There was no reaching for the rafters, no going for broke, just a band passively going through the motions.

But only two-thirds of the night’s crowd witnessed any of this; many quickly cleared out following Man Man’s animated carnival punk freak-out, which drew a bigger emotional reaction than any of the headliner’s set by a long shot. Sadly, not even the Walkmen’s encore rendition of "The Rat” came close to touching the intensity Man Man laid down.

And while this was all fine and good for the Man Man fans, the Walkmen’s were left to wallow in the bitter taste of disappointment.