Live Music + Gig Reviews

Vampire Weekend @ KCLSU, London

15 October 2009

Vampire Weekend showed up in London to preview new songs from new album Contra, set for release in January 2010, in the cosy surroundings of a student union. They packed a lot in during a polished 45 minute performance. Singer Ezra Koenig described the band as being in a transitional period; accordingly they played old material alongside their new songs. Admittedly, ‘old’ within the context of this band should be taken with a pinch of salt; their first album only came outlast year.

This might have been the reason for Koenig seeming surprised at how well the crowd knew the lyrics. They sang along with gusto to the tunes from the band’s eponymous 2008 offering. But he used this to good effect with a call and response during One (Blake’s Got A New Face).

The new material included Horchata, which is available to listen to on their website at the moment. If you’re impatient, you can also hear other new tracks on YouTube that fans have recorded live, such as White Sky, which is true to their established Afro-pop sensibilities. It has some impressive high-pitched singing from Koenig, for good measure.

Another corker was Run, which had fantastic drumming throughout. Indeed, all the band members earned their money “having a nice sweaty time”, as Koenig put it. The air conditioning did eventually kick in, but the towels the roadies laid out for them sure came in handy.

The distinctive opening of A-Punk had to be started twice, afterKoenig broke a string on his guitar the first time round. (It was the first time he’d done that in a while, apparently.) He noted that it only takes two strings to play this song, and refused to do it with one, adding simply: “Give the people what they want!”

Incidentally, it’s a travesty that when this track was released as a single, the highest position it achieved in the UK charts was 55. It didn’t fare much better in the States, reaching 25 on the US Modern Rock chart. The crowd went dutifully nuts when it was played, and were pretty rowdy throughout the evening; there was even a lone crowdsurfer, briefly. Watching over it all was a stern looking female bouncer who bore a striking resemblance to the mad Scottish actress from Green Wing.

They finished their main set with Campus, followed immediately after by Oxford Comma in a very slick transition and left the stage to deafening applause. The encore featured Walcott – which seems to be something of a tradition of theirs. It makes a lot of sense, as it was a great way to bring the evening to a close. They’ll be back in town in the New Year to promote their new album. Get tickets any way you can.

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