Vampire Weekend at Marquee Theatre

Categories: Concert Review
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Vampire Weekend's 19-song set at Marquee Theatre Tuesday was totally devoid of riffs or deviations from their studio versions -- the crowd couldn't have cared less.

In fact, the crowd knew every vocal and instrumental cue so well that, had the band gone off-script at any point, they may not have known what to do, caught like deer in the musical headlights.

The audience was absolutely enamored of Ezra Koenig and company, and with good reason. I have no snarky comments for this performance -- it was pitch-perfect.

Gathered at the sold out Marquee Theatre in Tempe was a crowd that couldn't be categorized. To one side of me was a deep-V-wearing hipster, to the other side a graying dad with his two kids, but both of them were clapping, dancing, singing, and sweating in unison. It was a Benetton ad of different ages. Just not races -- it was pretty damn white.

But all in attendance went positively apeshit for the Ivy League preppies on stage and their particular brand of Afro-baroque punk. Since most of their songs fit into a pretty, poppy, upbeat box in less than four minutes, there was little time for anyone to get bored, particularly with bassist Chris Baio dancing around stage and frontman Koenig encouraging the audience to sing along and dance; there was even some fairly successful crowd surfing despite the best efforts of the security staff.

Vampire Weekend's sophomore album, Contra, debuted at number one on the Billboard charts in January, and their stage show, full of energy, flashing lights, and the glowing chandeliers featured on the cover of their self-titled first album, may help explain why they have such a large and devoted following who helped them achieve that honor. They also look like they're just plain enjoying themselves, when so many bands look road-worn or seem like they're phoning in the performance. The quartet looked fresh, their vocals were precise, and Chris Tomson's drumming was like a heartbeat, connecting band with crowd. With the exception of rather inanimate keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij, they bounced around the stage having fun, which was reflected in the audience's reaction.

A few years ago, before you could get their albums from Target or see them perform on Saturday Night Live, Vampire Weekend played to a rumored thirty or fewer people at Modified Arts in Phoenix. While I wish that I had been to that oft-referred-to show, I don't know that it would have been as fun as the one last night, where high school girls and their parents, NPR-hipsters and dude-bros alike came together to sing and dance along with these four kids from Columbia University. It was just that good.

Critic's Notebook
Last Night: Vampire weekend at Marquee Theatre in Tempe
Better Than: Any other show I've seen this year.
Random Fact: The only two of their 21 released songs not played were "The Kids Don't Stand A Chance" and "I Think Ur A Contra" (three songs if you count "Ottoman" from the soundtrack to Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist).
Further Listening: Check out Rostam Batmanglij's side project with Ra Ra Riot singer Wes Miles, Discovery. It doesn't sound like either band, but it's worth an electro-pop listen. While you're at it, go ahead and listen to Ra Ra Riot's The Rhumb Line, which does have a similar sound to Vampire Weekend. Both VW and Ra Ra Riot will be performing this Friday at Coachella.


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