Vampire Weekend at the O2
Formed in 2006, Vampire Weekend have waded through mixed opinion to rise through the indie-rock ranks to arena tour success. Winning the NME Award for Best New American Alternative/Indie Band in 2008, and Q Awards in 2011 and 2013 for Best Video (Giving Up the Gun) and Best Act in the World Today respectively, they have also been nominated for 13 other awards over the past seven years.
With their trademark floral backdrop decorating the stage at the O2, the four seasoned musicians looked every bit the superstar part in this gigantic arena. Vampire Weekend’s distinctive style of ethnically influenced riffs and beats well suited the space. The multiple layers of meaning within the lyrics written by lead singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig and keyboardist/guitarist/supporting vocalist Rostam Batmanglij were often lost however, the audience missing out on a powerful aspect of the band’s ethos.
Vampire Weekend play together with an ease that comes with years of practice, but did come across as a little unenthusiastic last night. At times the performance element seemed to rely on the powerful lighting capabilities of the arena, blinding the audience with strobes that should have coincided with a climax of physical activity on stage. During the slower songs and ballads, the crowd seemed to be waiting for the guitar hooks of hits such as Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, A-Punk and the band’s cover of Blur’s Song 2 to kick in before showing real excitement. The rapport was dented by a mostly static performance, though Koenig himself has acknowledged that his passion lies in the creation of the album rather than live performance: “It’s a funny time when you work so hard on an album and then you finally finish it and then you’ve just got to go on tour and get into the drudgery of touring. It leaves you in a funny place.”
Obvious Bicycle ended the set, an example of a slower song that translates well into the arena setting, with a powerful arrangement and beautiful supporting vocals from Batmanglij. For the encore Koenig donned sunglasses for a slightly pitchy rendition of Hannah Hunt and, in a welcome but brief move to the forefront, Batmanglij took the guitar solo. Vampire Weekend left on a high, wrapping up with the massive audience singing along in unison to the ever-popular Walcott.
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