Even in the wake of an oncoming snowstorm, a crowd still turned out to spend the evening with Hamilton Leithauser. It had been awhile since Leithauser returned to the Boston area, but on this visit, for a sold out February 8 show at The Sinclair in Cambridge, the voice of The Walkmen would be sharing new songs off his latest solo record, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine.
Before Leithauser hit the stage, Virginia singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus warmed up the crowd with her smooth, sultry vocals. Her voice harkens back to Monica Martin of Phox, but embodies a more subdued presence. A perfect complement to Leithauser on this tour, Dacus boasts a blend of blues, indie, and edgy rock, and she and her band are fresh off the release of their first album for Matador Records, No Burden. Some personal favorites from her set included the lively “I Don’t Want to be Funny Anymore,” and moody rock tune “Troublemaker Doppelgänger.” Also appreciated was the dreamy start and slow build in “Map on a Wall.”
Leithauser’s hearty set was filled with all the croons, flourishes, and bursts that knock you backwards off your feet (a trait he’s quite known for), and he played a lot more guitar than usual during this particular evening. His new record, a collaboration with Rostam Batmanglij (ex-Vampire Weekend) takes on an ambitious electric vibe favoring more modern elements. Some of the new tunes venture into the rock landscape while the slow piano, folk, and doo-wop are still layered between. New melodies in “In a Black Out,” “Sick as a Dog,” and “1959” feel like old, familiar friends. While many of the other arrangements on the record allow his sound to evolve, stepping outside the twangy, twinkling vintage instruments we hear in The Walkmen and on his previous solo albums. Not too much, but just enough for you pick up on, nod along, and really dig.
Leithauser has managed to incorporate the music of the past with that of the present and keep the train rolling forward. “You Ain’t That Young Kid” kickstarted with harmonica and piano reminded a bit of Bob Dylan and it seemed like everyone in the room knew all the words to the upbeat “A 1000 Times.” Another personal favorite, “The Bride’s Dad” (along with the story of how it came to be), always puts a smile on my face and gets me singing along. Throughout the set The Sinclair saw the range of Leithauser’s musicianship, and we were pleasantly surprised at how well his new songs translated to the stage.
Outside the music, Hamilton’s stage gaze remains steadfast, something he’s extended from his time with The Walkmen. His look is one of blissful thought, a stare that reaches past the crowd and beyond the walls of the room. It is as though we catch him in a daydream. Where he drifts off to we’ll never know.
All photos by Kimberly Maroon; scan through the full Hamilton Leithauser and Lucy Dacus gallery below.