Vampire weekend are a band that, at first, I felt completely neutral to. I totally respected their self-titled debut for what it was: an experimental indie record, with a retro 60’s beach boy sound and a fine ability to craft an infectious song (a la ‘A Punk’). Whilst I respected them, I did not in all fairness like them very much. So upon agreeing to go to see them for a friends birthday present, I wasn’t really brimming with excitement and anticipation like I am before most gigs. Supports El Guincho and the Wild Beasts were dull and uninspiring, but I was pleasantly surprised by Vampire Weekend.
‘Mansard Roof’ kicks off the evening in spectacular style. Incredibly tight musically and delightful singing from lead singer Ezra Koenig set the crowd on fire. From the very start it was easy to see how Vampire Weekend have established a reputation for their live act following this summers festival season.
Next up is the incredibly catchy ‘A Punk’ and the reception this receives is pandemonium. The academy goes wild for arguably Vampire Weekends most famous track and things turn drunken karaoke style as the crowd belts out the lyrics. Brimming with energy and performed blindingly fast, it is a note perfect rendition.
‘Oxford Comma’ follows and is again treated with rapture from the audience. I was rather skeptical of ‘Oxford Comma’ when I first thought about it in a live context, as it’s not the most gripping of songs. Kudos to Vampire Weekend again though, the unrelenting energy of the bands stage presence (especially lead singer Ezra who seemed almost hyperactive) gave the song a fantastic feel: it still retained the basic foundations with the soulful organ and disjointed drums but managed to make the track exciting and playful.
The highlight of the night was easily the rhythmic ‘Kids Don’t Stand a Chance’. A pulsating bass line and drumbeat resulted in embarrassing dancing from many present (myself included). Perhaps not the most accomplished song on their debut album but it was given a new edge when played live. ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ and ‘Campus’ both deserve honorable mentions also. ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ is the stand out track from the debut album in my opinion, with its imaginative percussion and addictive guitar riff. Whilst the band failed to completely do the track justice (especially where percussion is concerned) it was an accomplished attempt. ‘Campus’, in similar vein to ‘A Punk’, got the crowd going and the instrumental shifts from the subdued organ part to the full band were highly impressive.
Its not all positives though. Midway through the set Vampire Weekend seem to lose the energy which the set began with. Whether its due to fatigue or purely these songs don’t live up to the high quality of what preceded them I do not know, but ‘Bryn’ especially is tiresome, slow and lacking any real character. New song ‘Ottoman’ also perhaps hinted at a Difficult Second Album for the band. My main appreciation for Vampire Weekend is their ability to create a musical hook or riff that leaves a lasting impression. ‘Ottoman’ fails in that respect and feels very much like a track that was cut from the first album, but is being used as a filler for the second.
Ending with the epic ‘Walcott’, this was a fitting finale to an (on the whole) fantastic performance. The reason I love going to gigs is their power to change your perception of a band and seeing Vampire Weekend live did just that. No longer are they the decent band i can stand but are outrageously over-hyped. I am now very much a fan. Their songs have an intriguing feel good factor and I can now often be heard humming leisurely the sonic goodness that is ‘Oxford Comma’.