Vampire Weekend | 9.10.08

vw.jpgWith only one album’s worth of material, the band played through every song they knew in the roughly one hour concert.

 

 

The Pageant, St. Louis

 

The first time I heard Vampire Weekend’s debut album, I wasn’t particularly impressed by it. Though I liked "Campus" (the only song I had heard before purchasing the album), none of the other songs made much of an impression, and I spent more time thinking "Man, I haven’t listened to Paul Simon’s Graceland in a while…" than I did paying attention to the music. Fortunately, I gave the band a few more chances to soak in, and in short order the record became one of my favorite (and most listened to) releases of the year.

The reason I mention my response to the album is because it dovetails so nicely with my impression of the band live. As the New York-based quartet launched their set with the album opener "Mansford Roof," I was again less than impressed. Live, frontman Ezra Koenig’s voice was either mellow and pleasant or off-puttingly loud and shrill. Rostam Batmanglij’s keyboards were pushed far too forward in the mix, while Chris Baio’s bass (the best part in pretty much any Vampire Weekend song) was nearly inaudible. Also, maybe it was just nerves—before third song "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," Koenig mentioned it was the band’s first time in St. Louis and later mentioned the venue had "one of the bigger balconies we’ve played"—but the band’s playing lacked confidence in the early going, particularly on "M79."

Fortunately, the band seemed to build that confidence throughout the show, with each song sounding better than the last. They finally broke through the wall at roughly the halfway point with "White Sky," a spastic new song punctuated with screamed yelps in the chorus. "Bryn" sounded fantastic thanks to Koenig’s rich, clear guitar tone, and an energetic run through the rocker "A-Punk" provoked a spirited singalong from the crowd. The audience also provided some extra rowdy screams of the parenthetical title lyric from "One (Blake’s Got a New Face)," obliterating whatever nervousness the band had left in the process.

From there on, everything was just gravy: "I Stand Corrected" had a driving intensity, "The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance" featured a circus-y organ and a lurching, drunk-ish tempo, and the high energy single "Oxford Comma" wrapped up the main set with Koenig’s finest guitar solo of the night. Throughout the night, the largely younger crowd was energetic and appreciative, greeting each song with heaps of applause and screams of approval.

With only one album’s worth of material, the band played through every song they knew in the roughly one hour concert: the 11 tracks from their self-titled debut, the b-side "Ladies of Cambridge," and one new song. As the band took the stage for their encore, Koenig announced "We have exactly one song left" before leading the band through a fantastic high energy version of the piano driven "Walcott." Koenig had earlier joked that Vampire Weekend would "come back and play two albums’ worth of songs." If the next time out is anywhere near as good as the second half of this first show at the Pageant, that day can’t get here soon enough. | Jason Green

Complete Vampire Weekend setlist:

Mansford Roof

Campus

Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

M79

White Sky

Bryn

A-Punk

One (Blake’s Got a New Face)"

I Stand Corrected

The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance

The Ladies of Cambridge

Oxford Comma

Encore:

Walcott

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