Vampire Weekend are a band who have really evolved over the years.
Their early wide-eyed naivety is now matched with the more politically conscious themes covered in their latest studio album Father of the Bride. Yet, they have always maintained their signature musical style, drawing on world music to produce a unique sound that is filled with optimism. After a lineup change, which sees the band expand their on-stage presence, their return to Manchester delivered a hit-laden show to a sold-out Victoria Warehouse.
Opener ‘Bambina’ immediately demonstrated the band’s confidence in their recent material, but with a modest backdrop and a vast space to fill, initial efforts seemed lightweight and somewhat hollow. The high ceiling and wide stature of Victoria Warehouse makes it difficult to generate a captivating atmosphere without flawless assistance from a willing crowd. However, as the band followed up with more familiar numbers, including 2008’s ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’, the audience rose to the occasion.
With the band powering through a well-rehearsed set, we became increasingly impressed by the number of sure-fire crowd pleasers Vampire Weekend had at their disposal. From ‘A-Punk’s’ unmistakable hook to the frantic vocals of ‘Diane Young’, the band really proved why they deserve the huge audiences they consistently attract. Ezra Koenig, Vampire Weekend’s frontman, has an undeniable ability to harness the energy of the crowd, shown as he radiated an air of absolute confidence.
Half-way through the set, the band’s melodic rendition of ‘Horchata’ inspired us to assume a more prominent position in the audience. Our relocation from the back of the hollow hall to the middle of the animated crowd was well timed for the beginning of ‘NEW DORP NEW YORK’. Koenig’s feature on SBTRKT’s track demonstrated a somewhat different side to him. We feared the song had a too sharp sound that would be lost in the warehouse’s cavernous expanse. However, in the thick of the crowd, the song’s catchy bassline and natural groove took full effect driving every spectator into a euphoric frenzy.
The audience were given a slightly delayed greeting from Koenig: “Hi Manchester, it’s been a while”. Vampire Weekend’s Manchester fans have grown accustomed to a long wait as they have not performed in the UK’s third largest city in 6 years. It appeared their UK tour was well worth the wait.
Entering the latter half of the show, the band began to really up the tempo, consecutively reeling off hits ‘Cousins’ and ‘Oxford Comma’. An ever-present sense of optimism was held throughout, by the on-stage interactions between band members. They definitely looked as if they relished this performance just as much as the crowd did.
The encore became one of the most memorable moments of the set. We were treated to five final songs: three of which were requests taken from the crowd. There was an undeniable buzz in the room as Koenig hand-picked requests from hardcore fans at the front of the crowd. Those wearing the band’s oldest merch faired best in the selection process, and their dedication was exemplified by the range of old school requests. ‘Boston (Ladies of Cambridge)’, ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ (a Crowded House cover) and ‘Campus’ set up an excellent finale.
Long-time fan-favourite ‘Walcott’ closed the set an impressive two hours after Vampire Weekend took to the stage. The infamous, explosive ‘Walcott’ intro allowed the crowd to go absolutely wild one last time. Adding to the chaos, two Father of the Bride globe inflatables were released. Vampire Weekend’s final exit from the stage was met with an excellent response from a clearly captivated audience.
Although the venue was at times disappointing, Vampire Weekend certainly were not. Their festival-worthy performance left us hoping for a 2020 UK festival headline spot. Taking a six-year hiatus between albums is not something many bands can survive, but Vampire Weekend returned stronger and bolder than ever.