Saviours and The Walkmen at Central Park Summerstage, NYC

Ernest Barteldes By

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Saviours and The Walkmen
Central Park Summerstage
New York, New York
August 16, 2009

Under a hot sun that finally passed the 90 degree mark (a first for the summer of 2009 in New York), the Oakland, California-based Saviours began the proceedings with their original music that seems to wish for the return of the hair bands of the late 80s/early 90s. Their tunes were loud with few lyrics and a lot of synchronized guitar solos from Austin Barber (vocals, lead & rhythm guitar) and Sonny Christopher Reinhardt (lead & rhythm guitar), which left a lot of open spaces to be filled by bandmates Cyrus Comiskis (bass) and Scott Batiste (drums).

It was a rare opportunity to hear metal at Summerstage—hardly ever do the organizers program this kind of music there—but considering how unique the lineup was this year, it shouldn't have come as a total surprise. The band itself seemed to feel out of place there, rarely communicating with the audience while going from tune to tune almost without any interruption. Whenever there was any talking, it was mostly incomprehensible mumbles from Barber.

The band was unconvincing—in spite of the individual musicians' technique, the group lacked the charisma that irradiates from most metal acts. Probably it was the heat and the fact that they were performing during the day without any visual effects (another common trait at these shows), but as they left the stage, no one seemed really impressed by what they saw or heard.

Up next was the New York/Philadelphia indie band The Walkmen, who opened their set with a country-ish number but quickly warmed things up by doing more rock-inflected tunes. Though the band has a strong rock-folk influence, one can also identify traces of jazz in their musical style, especially in the grooves played by the rhythm section of Walter Martin (bass) and Matt Barrick (drums). Vocalist Hamilton Leithauser sounds like a young Roger Daltrey, and has the range and stage persona to go with it.

Halfway through their set, they brought in a horn section, which would come on and off the stage throughout the show to enhance songs all apparently arranged around Rick Maroon's solid guitar riffs (he played Vintage Gretch similar to the one used by George Harrison while in the Beatles).

The audience seemed to respond well to the band, cheering them on from number to number, unlike the cool reception received by the previous group. Leithauser has a geeky charm that makes him an unlikely frontman—and with the quality of The Walkmen's music, it is quite clear that this would be a triumphant gig—even if the heat didn't really encourage us to applaud much.

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