Vampire Weekend - Wolverhampton Civic Hall
From humble beginnings in 2008, following the release of their self-titled debut on XL, Vampire Weekend have enjoyed a rise to stardom that's just shy of meteoric. They might not grab headlines or nab number one albums in the UK (although they're doing quite well for themselves thankyouverymuch) but in their native U.S. the band has topped the Billboard 200, persuaded Hollywood A-lister Jake Gyllenhaal to appear in a video, and have built a following strong enough to merit a place as star attraction on the appropriately toothy Twilight: Eclipse soundtrack. Not bad for a quartet who write songs about punctuation and traditional Mexican beverages. It's funny then that these four young gents, who continue to rock the preppy, just-out-of-Harvard look and are certainly not averse to a pop song flavoured by the tropics, translate so well in down and dirty - and absolutely blooming freezing - Wolverhampton.
'Holiday' opens the show, the perfect breezy start to a setlist full of similarly well-constructed pop ditties speckled with sunshine. The brevity of raucous crowd-pleasers like 'Cousins' and 'A-Punk' means the set never feels baggy and the crowd is constantly kept on its toes - or bouncing up and down on them. Only album closers 'The Kids Don't Stand a Chance' and Contra's title track are left out in the cold (which is a shame), meaning the band perform both albums near enough in full and no-one goes home feeling short-changed.
The band are quite unassuming, lead singer Ezra Koenig choosing to let the music do the talking as he and his bandmates play against a backdrop of lyrics from 'White Sky'. These words, which paint a picture of modern-day New York with references to big business and art installations, might be alien to the Wulfrunians dodging Red Stripe missiles throughout the gig but draw attention to Vampire Weekend's unique lyrical concerns. The wit and colour displayed by 'Campus' and 'Oxford Comma's wordplay is not lost beneath the live musicianship. The rhythm section should be applauded, with drummer Chris Tomson imbuing many of the songs with a shuffling afropop tack and bassist Chris Baio building on the grooves. Band founder and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij focuses on keys for the majority of the show, directing the dancefloor highlight 'Diplomat's Son' and painting the new album's poppier sheen on tracks like the melodically winsome 'Giving Up the Gun'.
It's hard to fault anything in particular about such a shamelessly satisfying set from one of America's brightest new talents. I could have maybe done without Koenig's needlessly vocoder-ed vocals on 'California English', which are admittedly present on the recorded version, and 'Bryn' is one of the more forgettable VW songs. Aside from that, this is perfect Friday night gig material, 'Cape Cod's rad reggae and 'Run's perfectly catchy pop (which practically screams 'please let me be a single' when Koenig yelps the title at the song's climax) getting the sold-out crowd dancing right at the back. 'Walcott' wraps it all up with one last singalong moment, warming our loins and vocal cords one final time before it's back out to the icy wasteland of Wolves. Come back soon!
Holiday / White Sky / Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa / I Stand Corrected / M79 / Bryn / California English / Cousins / Taxi Cab / Run / A-Punk / One (Blake's Got a New Face) / Diplomat's Son / Giving Up the Gun / Campus / Oxford Comma // Horchata / Mansard Roof / Walcott