Celtic Connections: The Walkmen @ Òran Mór, 19 Jan

Article by David Bowes | 21 Jan 2011

Even if you are only lucky enough to catch five minutes of Laki Mera’s set, it’s still plenty of time to know that you’re watching something wonderful. Taking the tried-and-tested trip-hop formula and wrapping it around folkish melodies and a drum machine that shakes the building to the foundations, it’s still Andrea Gobbi’s vocals that really make the band, channelling Julee Cruise by way of Liz Fraser.

Nashville, TN’s Mona are a lot less subtle but they sure know how to have a good time. Between slugs of Jack Daniels (what else?), guitarist/vocalist Nick Brown comes across as a 1950s incarnation of Walter Schreifels, and between him and his cohorts they kick up a mean storm of rock bravado and hardcore energy.

After all this, The Walkmen seem somewhat lacklustre in comparison. It’s not that they're wanting for quality material, given the overwhelmingly positive critical response to latest full-length Lisbon and the admittedly charming bluegrass melodies of songs like Blue as Your Blood, nor is it a lack of stage presence, Hamilton Leithauser wielding the microphone with the conviction of an experienced crooner. It’s simply that after the sensuality of Laki Mera and the boundless energy of Mona, their set doesn’t offer quite the same gravitas.

Nonetheless, it’s the New York quintet that the crowd are here for, and they aren’t leaving disappointed. Rebounding between upbeat surf-infused rock and beard-stroking indie experimentation, they provide an hour of tight and accomplished songs that keep the assembled bouncing and swaying in equal measure. Between Leithauser’s dynamic persona and Matt Berrick’s precise drumming, it’s a performance that will surely meet expectations but it’s an odd shame that the support acts managed to exceed them. [David Bowes]