In opening their North American support of Modern Vampires of the City at Boston University’s Agganis Arena, Vampire Weekend battled the usual monitor and stage malfunctions that haunt the start of any large scale tour. Yet, in spite of the empty pauses between songs, the enthusiastically supportive crowd welcomed it all. As Ezra Koenig noted,
“We love playing Boston. You get our music.” We sure do.
The champions of various hyphenated genres, Vampire Weekend have steadily built an impressive following on the back of witty lyrics funneled through a bouncy blend of prep-Afro-indie-rock.
Their music evokes a world of Nantucket reds and summery attraction,
and their stage layout complements this vibe. Stately columns framed the band as if playing some manor party in the conservatory, complete with a large looking glass and paisley patterned wallpaper. And it was a party atmosphere, the Boston fans having having not seen the band on stage for three years and with the new album released the previous day, offered boisterous backing vocals on all tracks, even the “tricky” parts on “One (Blake’s Got a New Face).”
In highlighting the current single from Modern Vampires, “Ya Hey,” the band’s set list enfolded songs from three albums to great effect. The new material thematically evolves from familiar territory,
but expands with an existential complexity that shames anyone who hates on Vampy Weeks for being bougie caricatures.
Shedding his guitar for the only point in the show, Koening sung of a distant deity that continues to exist and love, even as those who were previously devote turn away. Even if most came to dance, this sobering hymn to doubt found receptive ears. Also, the hyper-kinetic LED strobe created an amazing optical aura that made it appear that the I Am actually emanated through the trailing notes as a final pronouncement of his being. This idea was echoed later in the set as “Everlasting Arms” speaks of being “trapped beneath the chandelier.” Suddenly that first album cover takes on a more menacing vibe.
By the time the encore ended with “Walcott,” the audience engorged with songs shouting out local references, there had been a fascinating transformation from technical breakdowns into an cathartic Kwassa Kwassa. Whether on the beach, or in an arena hockey rink,
Vampire Weekend’s songs reflect that paradoxical impulse we all have to hook-up or contemplate the ethereal. Like you know I do.
In a pleasant surprise, NYC-by-way-of Sydney’s High Highs led off with wrapped Christmas lights around their mic stands. Their minimalist staging fit this duo (Jack Milas and Oli Changlead) well. Their music, a less orchestrated working of electronic grounded indie rock, built a dreamy welcome for Vampire Weekend.