Vampire Weekend Gig Review

Vampire Weekend

Academy, Bristol

Friday 31st October 2008 

It’s Halloween and they’re called VAMPIRE Weekend. Audience and band alike are in ghoulish fancy-dress. There’s a spooky synergy to tonight’s sold out show that promises great things. Vampire Weekend’s meteoric rise from preppy Columbia University boys to New York trend-setters and darlings of the international indie-press is well documented.
Their debut album focussed pops forays into Afro-beat into a sharp original sound with mass appeal.

Expectations are high.

Unfortunately, some of the band’s characteristic tautness is lost in the Academy’s sound system.
The preciseness of the albums African guitar tones and complex rhythms is dissipated in the swampy shortcomings of the venue; the choruses emerge but don’t hit with the same force.

A-Punk and Oxford Comma become shouty, rhythmical shunts, rather than the intricate masterpieces we know them to be.

None of this matters to the crowd though who are in party-mode.

After playing the majority of their eponymous album and a few new tracks with typical youthful exuberance, Vampire Weekend return to the stage for an encore.

They cover Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere, drawing out previously non-existent rhythmic and melodic tension.

It is a prime example of their ability to distil a unique set of influences into a refreshingly postmodern sound.

Then, joined on stage by support act Ra Ra Riot, they end with the anthemic Walcott, which becomes an uplifting soukous hymn, bubbling with warmth and drive.

The exhilarating fusion of indie-cool and Afro-pop is realised at last.

As I leave the Academy, six burly men shout the refrain from Walcott like a football chant.

The musical snob in me wishes that the subtle craft of Vampire Weekend had shone through tonight and saved them from the laddish chorusdom of the Kaiser Chiefs.

Vampire Weekend have dragged Afro-pop from a distant 1980s, adding new and innovative elements to make it cool and accessible again; but as with all musical movements, they are best enjoyed drenched in the excitement of the moment of discovery.

There is a distinct lack of bite to tonight’s proceedings suggesting that Vampire Weekend’s moment may be waning.

Bring on the difficult second album and let’s start again.

Vampire Weekend Gig Review Photography by

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Tom Spooner

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