MONIQUE T. VITCHE
There is only one band on this entire planet that I will stand almost five hours for, and that’s Vampire Weekend.
For the first time since the last time – September 2010 at Radio City Music Hall to be exact – Vampire Weekend returned to the New York City stage; this time at the Roseland Ballroom. Their performance was broadcasted on a live stream directed by Steve Buscemi and was part of AmexUNSTAGED and the TriBeCa Film Festival.
Before the band took the stage, comedian Fred Armisen warmed up the crowd. Armisen, complete with a wig and a British accent, transformed into Ian Rubbish from “Ian Rubbish and the Bizarros”- a “Saturday Night Live” sketch that recently aired. Armisen, or Rubbish, entertained the crowd with the skits “Maggie Thatcher,” “Sweet Iron Lady,” “Living in the Gutter” and “Hey Policeman!”
After Armisen’s set, there was a 25-minute wait before the live stream began and Vampire Weekend took the stage. When they did, the venue erupted into a cheers and applause.
The band opened with “Cousins” and “White Sky” from their second album, “Contra.”
“This is our first show in New York in years,” Ezra Koenig (vocals, guitar, lyrics) said before playing “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” a track from their 2008 self-titled debut album.
The band formed while Koenig, Chris Baio (bass guitar, backing vocals), Rostam Batmanglij (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals, lyrics) and Chris Tomson (drums, percussion) were students at Columbia University in New York City. Koenig made a reference to their Morningside Heights alma mater before the band played “One (Blake’s Got A New Face)” later on in the concert.
“I Stand Corrected” is a slower track from their 2008 album, but the average concert-goer may not pick up on its andante tempo due to the liveliness of the band – and that’s a good thing.
“This is a very special night for us, not just because we’re back in New York but also this show we’re at anybody can watch it live on the Internet,” Koenig said.
The first song from their new album, “Modern Vampires of the City,” that the band played was “Step,” which, like “I Stand Corrected,” surprisingly works well in a live setting. Batmanglij used a piece of equipment that modified his voice, to match how it sounds in the studio version. Batmanglij also operated the same equipment to modify Koenig’s voice for “Diane Young,” another song off their new album. “[Diane Young] was dedicated to Ian Rubbish,” Koenig said.
“Holiday,” which is from “Contra” and was used in a Honda Civic commercial during the 2010 holiday season, served as a segue to “Unbelievers.” The crowd clapped in time to Tomson’s drumming for the latter part of the song.
Batmanglij invited the crowd to sing the “Ohh” with him during “Horchata,” and had them practice.
“Everlasting Arms” was another song from “Modern Vampires of the City” that the band played and the crowd quickly learned the chorus.
“I don’t need to tell you to move to this one,” Koenig said before the band played “A-Punk” from their first album. I still have a small bruise from when someone jumped on my foot (by accident, of course). Buscemi, who had been directing the live stream, walked onto the stage, took a picture with Baio and sang the rest of “A-Punk” with Koenig.
“I think they want to play more songs, but I’m happy to take some requests,” Buscemi said. “I can’t understand anyone. I think they’re saying, ‘Ya Hey.’ Is that a song?”
“Ya Hey” has more of an Afrobeat that is present in many Vampire Weekend songs and translates fantastically from the studio to the stage.
Batmanglij had the crowd clapping in 4/4 time with Tomson’s drums, as they played “Campus,” one of the songs written completely by Batmanglij. From there, they went right into “Oxford Comma.”
“Giving Up The Gun” was the next song they played and as soon as the first line of beats played, the crowd erupted.
The band thanked the crowd for coming out and left the stage for a moment before playing an encore. “We will play more than one song, okay?” Koenig said as he walked on stage. “You might not have heard this one before.”
The band debuted “Obvious Bicycle,” the first track off “Modern Vampires of the City.” It is a very somber song.
“That’s one of my favorite Vampire Weekend songs,” Batmanglij said.
One of the things I didn’t quite understand about the live stream at the time was why they didn’t make an effort to show what Buscemi was doing while the band was on stage. It seemed a bit odd to me that they didn’t show much of him during the concert and that was one of the main points of the concert. If I was going to shell out $63 for a ticket (those Ticketmaster fees are brutal), then I should get to see Buscemi in the flesh for more than five minutes. (Okay, he did shake my hand before Armisen opened up for the band so maybe I shouldn’t be complaining so much.)
In the encore they also played “Diplomat’s Son,” which is one of my personal favorites from “Contra.”
“Not only are you some of the best fans, you have very beautiful iPhone cases that I’ve been looking at all night,” Koenig said. “Hopefully we give you something good to look at.”
The band played “One (Blake’s Got A New Face),” and as Koenig told the crowd they played it differently than when they used to play “up on 114th Street.” Being someone who has an aversion to change, I thought it was a good different.
They band played their final song, “Walcott,” which is their standard “goodbye” song. “Walcott” is named after a town in Massachusetts. It is also the name of Koenig’s character in the short film he made freshman year of college with high school friend and Ra Ra Riot lead singer Wes Miles, called “Vampire Weekend.”
“Modern Vampires of the City” will be released in the U.S. on May 14, a week later than was originally announced due to “unforeseen delays in post-production,” according to the band.
They are also scheduled to play a show at Barclay’s in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Sept. 20.