Backstage and onstage at an explosive show supporting their most recent U.K. Number One, ’48:13′
Kasabian released 48:13, their fourth consecutive U.K. Number One album, and played a headlining set in a pyramid stage at the country’s Glastonbury Festival in June. Three months later, they returned to the U.S., bringing the North American leg of their tour to New York’s Terminal 5 on September 27th. Rolling Stone caught up with the group in Manhattan, documenting their busy day in the Big Apple from the pool hall to the front row of their sold-out show.
Having finished the game – solids appears to have won – Meighan and Pizzorno sit at the bar.
Soundcheck begins, and the band faces an empty Terminal 5.
The lights turn pink and (from left to right) bassist Chris Edwards, Pizzorno and guitarist Tim Carter discuss the set list.
The agreed-upon set list.
|Thursday, May 15, 2014|
|Thursday, May 15, 2014Terminal 5 610 West 56th Street
New York, New York 10019
A Serious Conversation With Amanda Fucking Palmer
Fame and the machine
What was the worst New Year’s Eve you’ve ever had?
It was the millennium turnover, and I had the flu. Everyone was having crazy parties, and I was sick and in bed.
At around 5 or 6, I got a call from an old high school friend of mine who I’d barely stayed in touch with, who moved into a new apartment in Boston, and just dropped me a line and said: “Hey, Amanda, I’m moving right down the street from you. We’re supposed to do New Year’s Eve. Do you want to come over?”
I scraped my ass out of bed, took a cab a mile down the street in Boston, and wound up in one of the most awkward situations I have ever been in. My old high school friend had another friend of his over and just a bunch of random people I didn’t know. I think I watched my friend macking on some other girl while I sat on the corner of the couch nursing a drink.
Every other New Year’s Eve of my life that I can remember has been onstage. You’ve got to. It’s such a waste not to play New Year’s Eve. It’s such a fantastic celebration.
Tell me about Purple Rain.
Purple Rain is in the Venn diagram of my band, our top influence. It’s the one solid place where we all overlap. If you look at what we were all listening to as teenagers, it’s not drastically different, but it’s pretty fucking different. You wouldn’t have found many of the same records on our shelves. But there are a couple of crossover points: Michael Jackson, Prince. Purple Rain is the perfect example of where we all agree it’s one of the best records ever made.
Have you had an “I made it” moment?
Not one big one, but I have had a couple of moments where I kind of step back from my life and think, “Wow.” I guess no one is going to come along and tell me I’ve made it. [Laughs.] It really is hard to, especially for an artist like me, because I’m just a perpetual underdog. And no matter what I do, and no matter what I make, I feel like I’m permanently dedicated to being a cult artist.
Here’s an “I made it” moment: [Theatre Is Evil] coming out, and the mainstream media ignoring the record. It really does feel like there’s still that insecure teenager in me that wants the recognition from the machine. I want to not only beat the machine but also be recognized by the machine. The grown-up in me shakes her head and says you really can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If you want to beat the machine, you have to be willing to live outside the machine.
Last question: Is fame as frightening as it looks?
I think it depends who you are. [Laughs.] No, it’s not. Fame isn’t a real thing. It’s a state of mind. It’s not defined by the outside. . . . I’ve been thinking about that a lot for the past year as I worked up to the release of Theatre Is Evil—thinking I’m still totally independent, putting out this record by myself, and I have my amazing cult audience, but how would I feel if all of a sudden the mainstream decided to tap me with its “famous” wand?
I look at my indie music friends who have jumped up a couple rungs on the fame ladder—especially if they’ve jumped quickly—and they really don’t like it. . . . If I looked at why I got into doing all this in the first place, it’s not that I want to be famous. I wanted to be functional, and I wanted to be able to make my living doing that. But fame in itself wasn’t going to do anything for me.
It was such a mantra that fame will make you happy, but nowadays, more and more musicians are realizing that, no, as long as you make a living, and pay your rent, and hang around wonderful people, and do what you want, and make music without suffering, that’s actually much more of a cosmic end. At least musicians are actually asking that and creating real lives for themselves instead of diving into the old-school cesspool.
That’s my next album title! Amanda Palmer Presents Old-School Cesspool. It would be a nine-CD box set with extra cardboard packaging, and it will cost $900. [Laughs.] And it would be put out by Warner!
There’s a huge, pulsing vein on the side of Hamilton Leithauser’s neck. Anytime the Walkmen frontman howls, which he did pretty frequently last night at Terminal 5 while headlining one of CMJ’s biggest shows, that vein throbs uncontrollably. And as he yelps, he sometimes squeals a bit, too, but in a way that’s completely focused and precise, holding the microphone close to his mouth like a freshly picked apple, leaning back, cocking his head at a 45 degree angle, and squeezing out heartbreaking lyrics of love lost and nostalgia.
The Walkmen were born in New York City. Their debut record, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, was recorded in a homemade studio in Harlem back in 2001. That first album, much of which deals with misperceptions and love gone wrong, bleeds Gotham’s influence. It, of course, helped define the band’s sound: A blend of vintage guitars and the use of an upright piano, all underneath Leithauser’s controlled and poignant squawk. But moreover, with songs such as “We’ve Been Had” that embrace self-aware lyrics and critiques, the band revealed that they weren’t just another bunch of rockers trying to drink beer and be young forever, but rather utilized their fears about growing up too fast as a strength. Fans latched on, and the group followed up with Bows + Arrows, the record that gave the world “The Rat,” arguably one of the most culturally defining songs of the aughts. Its bridge, “When I used to go out, I would know everyone that I saw / Now I go out alone if I go out at all,” became an anthem for young, fresh-faced kids moving to the city with hopes of one day calling themselves real New Yorkers. It’s still found played on repeat in bars across the city, and, yes, people do still sing along. The likes of the Killers or the White Stripes may have been playing across the country’s rock radio stations, but in a certain sector here, no band was more important than the Walkmen.
The Walkmen recognize this, or at least understand the influence this city has had on their careers. Last night between songs, Leithauser said that the show felt like a “real homecoming,” even though none of the band members live here anymore. Back in May, in an interview I did with bass and organ player Peter Bauer, he told me New York has “always been our hometown in terms of playing.” The fans seem to know it, too. I overheard a couple guys behind me counting the number of times they’ve seen the Walkmen, and kept losing track. On the way out of the venue, another girl mentioned that every time she’s been to a Walkmen concert–“which has been like a million times”–they’ve never disappointed. “Duh,” her friend said in reply. “Why would they?”
These days, many of the members have spouses and kids and dogs and backyards, and probably do go out alone, if they go out at all. Their sixth record, Heaven, which was released earlier this year, was recorded in Seattle (Seattle!) with the same producer (Phil Ek) responsible for much of that sensitive music from the Pacific Northwest, which tends to produce a certain kind of music that a certain kind of music fan likes to hate. Overall, the album was received mostly positively, but a few places noted this change in approach. SPIN called it “brunch rock”, with former Voice writer Camille Dodero noting it was “suitably palatable background music for the locavore café that serves fried eggs with beets, ricotta-and-fig sandwiches, and kale as a side.” And maybe that’s true. But it’s hard to fault the band for playing music that might be a more appropriate soundtrack for sitting on back porches versus doing whiskey shots at the bar. After all, you write the life that you know.
But last night, the Walkmen avoided brunch. After opening the show with a few cuts from the new album, the band took a turn for their earlier work in their career. Leithauser meant what he said about the show being a homecoming, as he seemed to be returning to an old self that used to walk the streets of Harlem. He channeled someone greener, more innocent, more naive. During a rendition of another classic Walkmen track from their 2008 record You & Me, “In the New Year,” he crooned his blind optimism wholeheartedly over rolling guitar strums: “It’s gonna be a good year, out of the darkness, into the fire, I’ll tell you I love you.” Later, the cuts went deeper, with performances of “Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone” and “Hang On Siobhan.”
The moment in which the band truly embraced their younger selves was during the four-song encore. Opening with “138th Street” from Bows & Arrows, Leithauser reminisced about recording in the “loudest” studio in New York, following that up with “Louisiana” from A Hundred Miles Off. Then, despite being known for being reluctant to playing the track live these days, they launched into the prowling, driving opening guitar riff of “The Rat.” The band members, all dressed in their respective version of layering blazers and collars and ties, vibrated around stage, with concertgoers joining Leithauser in screaming and shaking. After they wrapped, they surprised everyone with one more: “We’re the Walkmen; we’re originally from New York City,” Leithauser said through a squint. “I’ll see you around, this is ‘We’ve Been Had.'” The piano suddenly fluttered and Leithauser quietly sang his lyrics of seeing himself change, and after finishing, he set down the microphone and jumped into the crowd, walking around, shaking hands, and high-fiving anyone who swarmed him, submerging himself once again in New York City.
Critical Bias: This was the first time in my life that I’d seen the Walkmen. It was a Big Moment.
Overheard: “That’s the best fucking song ever!!!” -Dude next to me after a solid rendition of “In the New Year.”
Random Notebook Dump: Surprised I’ve only seen one fedora.
Line By Line
The Love You Love
Blue As Your Blood
Angela Surf City
On the Water
In the New Year
Hang On Siobhan
I Lost You
Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone
All Hands and the Cook
We Can’t Be Beat
We’ve Been Had
610 W. 56th St., New York, NY
The Walkmen – Terminal 5
Tunes to Play After You’ve Been Fired