- 02 Jul 19
Some Kind Of Mass Indie-Highlife-Ska Dance Party
This is what you want. Loath as I am to go a bit B.P. the vibe is good at the opening night of 2019’s Trinity Summer Series of gigs. First off, there’s an awful lot to be said for the location, it’s hard to beat an outdoor show right in the centre of the city. Secondly, the gods are smiling on us with the weather. Main Weekender Ezra Koenig will say as much later on, beaming from the stage. A good crowd also add to the general bonhomie and tonight’s throng – quasi-hipster, there’s a fair few beards and second-hand outfits - are in fine form and polite almost to a fault, excusing themselves as they push past you.
That’s all well and good but as useless as a cat flap on a submarine if the band aren’t equal to the task. No such problem with Vampire Weekend, the act the NME just called “the most fun live band on the planet”. That might be over selling things slightly, but only slightly. Take show opener ‘Sunflower’. A nagging riff of a song from this year’s bright and shiny Father Of The Bride album, it goes through a few different movements here. Guitarist Brian Robert Jones, who proves to be good value all evening with his frankly massive head of hair – the kind of fella you’d say “Look at the head on this lad” to but mean it as a compliment – football jerseys, shorts and pink guitar, goes into a full Eddie Hazel-Parliament-Funkadelic freakout halfway through. The song finishes by morphing into “some class of 70’s Top Gear theme” according to Hot Press snapper Colm Kelly, stood to my right, enjoying a rare night off. That’s the first song done, the crowd are already eating out of their hands, so the band indulge in some barrelled fish shooting. ‘White Sky’ and ‘Holiday’ from 2010’s Contra, ‘Unbelievers’ from 2013’s Modern Vampires Of The City, and – greeted with a huge roar – ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ from 2008’s debut album are trotted out smartly. Vampire Weekend’s incorporation of African music into their indie fare sets them apart from most other rock bands on the go, and accordingly your correspondent was giving it the serious Dad at a wedding (geddit?!?) boogie – you try to stand still and look professional when two drummers are going at it – voicing my approval through the medium of dance. An enduring - albeit unpleasant - image I think you'll agree
Back to the new album: show me a song writer who wouldn’t drown their granny for a tune like ‘This Life’ and I’ll show you a liar, the large globe that forms the background of the stage starts spinning for ‘Big Blue’ – “Big Blue, the ocean, do you see, eh?” Thanks Colm – and ‘Unbearably White’, while it slows things down, doesn’t lose anyone. They ramp up through ‘Step’, ‘Diplomat’s Son’ – Koenig encouraging the crowd to fill in the MIA bit from the original before the tune goes a bit “experimental”, bass player Chris Baio has a conniption, and the Toots & The Maytals’ “Pressure Drop’ sample is brought to the front - and ‘Hannah Hunt’ up to ‘Harmony Hall’, the song released at the start of the year, heralding The ‘Weekend’s return. I’ll admit it, I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to the band until this song was released but the joy captured in its grooves sent me back to investigate their other records. There’s sunshine in that song and tonight it’s welcomed like free money.
They can’t miss with ‘Diane Young’ (‘Sounds like Footloose!” – Kelly is enjoying himself), ‘Cousins’, ‘A-Punk’ and ‘Oxford Comma’, and they don’t, engendering some kind of mass indie-highlife-ska dance party. A bit of a left turn then for a gentle go at Springsteen’s 'I’m Goin' Down'. I liked it but then I’m an old man. For others this is the time to get that perfect photo for Instagram. What harm, they look happy. A bouncy ‘Flower Moon’ and a low key ‘Jerusalem, New York, Berlin’ close out the main set. The band go off but we can all see them waiting at the side of the stage as the clamour rises, so they don’t make us wait too long.
‘How Long’ is followed by a rocking ‘Giving Up The Gun’, played as a request to a couple of blokes in hats down the front, although it’s far too polished to have come completely off the cuff. ‘Worship You’ lands before ‘Ya Hey’ which - probably unintentionally - casts Koenig as an a Christ-like figure, lit from behind with his arms outstretched. There’s an echo of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ video clip too. He thanks us for coming out before they close up shop with ‘Walcott’ pushing two giant Globes/Beach Balls into the audience, it’s crowd pleasing 101 but no less effective for that.
The NME were right, that was a lot of fun. Vampire Weekend have delivered a great record in Father Of The Bride – like an indie version of Fleetwood Mac around Rumours and Tusk, if the Mac had gone to university to study indie and African music – and they’ve got the live chops to go with it. Let me shoehorn in some kind of cricket reference given where we are. They gave it some Humpty, and scored a Daddy Hundred. Howzat?