Hamilton Leithauser returned to Washington, DC on Friday night for an intimate hometown show at U Street Music Hall. With The Walkmen, his band of over a decade, on indefinite hiatus, Leithauser has stepped forward to prove himself more than capable as a solo artist. These skills were fully on display in an energetic set performed to a roomful of fans who braved the threat of bad weather to see him.
Leithauser’s sound as a solo artist is an anachronism – the energy and urgency of The Walkmen is still there, but along with it he has cultivated the laid-back image of the crooners of old. The songs are modern, but it’s not hard to imagine him singing the same songs a smoky jazz lounge, microphone in one hand and cocktail in the other (a look which he even adopted during an encore cover of Tom Paxton’s “Annie’s Going To Sing Her Song”).
The set started off with several songs from his solo debut Black Hours, an album released last year to much critical acclaim. “11 O’Clock Friday Night,” “I Don’t Need Anyone,” “Alexandra,” and “5 AM” are all songs which are very familiar to Leithauser’s fans at this point, yet the audience listened with rapt attention. The real treat of the night came when the other band members left the stage, leaving Leithauser and guitarist Paul Maroon alone to perform several new songs from the album that they’re currently working on. Being stripped down to just voice and guitar seemed to add intensity to the songs. A cover of Frank Sinatra’s “All or Nothing At All” only seemed to emphasize the lounge singer image.
Bully, a band from Nashville, TN whose sound is highly reminiscent of 90s pop punk, opened the show. The band performed a lively set, but seemed like an unusual choice for an opener for Leithauser, with whom they had little in common musically. Still, fans of artists such as Juliana Hatfield might find them worth checking out.
All photos by Matt Condon. Click to embiggen.
(See more photos from this show and more of Matt's work HERE)