Six years is a long time in popular music. For Vampire Weekend, that means six years since the band’s last album and six since the last time they were on Austin City Limits. But the success of their fourth album Father of the Bride – which is also their third #1 on the Billboard album chart – proves that six years is nothing to a fanbase as loyal and enthusiastic as theirs. To say the crowd was excited for Vampire Weekend’s return – which we live streamed around the world – is an understatement.
The audience yelled their appreciation loudly as the seven-piece band took the stage with the double drummer groove of “Sympathy,” from Bride. The group then dipped into their landmark Modern Vampires of the City, for the jangly “Unbelievers.” A cheer went up at the opening, African-tinged chords of “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” a canny update of American worldbeat experiments, followed by the eight-and-a-half minute “Stoneflower,” a more jamming multi sectional version of the new record’s “Sunflower” highlighted by dual guitar action and a dizzying solo from axe person Brian Roberts. If dual guitars are good, triple are better, as leader Ezra Koenig, bassist Chris Balo and Roberts harmonized the intro to the Afrobeat-loving “White Sky.” Bride’s “Bambina” followed, working a delightful pop atmosphere all VW’s own. That led into another epic tour-de-force, as “2021” went from ethereal ballad to bombastic lighter-waver, all of it laced with Koenig’s subtle talk box. The crowd loved it.
Something lighter was clearly required, and the sweet psych pop of “Step” provided it. “My Mistake” got even quieter, its strain of sixties pop melody made all the more acute by its demand for close attention. Breath sufficiently caught, the band launched into “New Dorp New York,” Koenig’s collaboration with EDM producer SBTRKT, transformed into a Vampire Weekend funk rock epic. “This Life” took the band back to jangle pop, but Koenig’s jones for catchy melody really flowered on the masterful “Harmony Hall,” a clear audience favorite. VW followed that triumph with the radio hit “Diane Young,” its original faux-rockabilly stylings replaced by more forthright rock & roll. The group revisited second LP Contra for the spiky “Cousins,” but that was just a warm-up for “A-Punk,” the band’s breakthrough tune which brought the crowd to its feet to sing along.
After that breathless five-song rush, it was time for another ballad, and the group obliged with the lovely “Hannah Hunt.” VW ended the main set with “Jerusalem, New York, Berlin,” which started slowly and gently, before building up into a drum-driven epic. The audience went wild. Of course, the band came back, bearing a surprising and faithful cover of Crowded House’s guitar pop standard “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” Following retakes of “2021” and “This Life” (which their fans didn’t mind at all), Vampire Weekend ended the show with the power popping “Walcott,” a fan favorite given a turbocharged reading here. It was an excellent show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.