Vampire Weekend, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Thu 7 Nov
- Megan Forsyth
- 9 November 2019
American indie rock heroes make their triumphant return to Scotland
It's been a long six years since Vampire Weekend's last gig in Scotland and an even longer nine years since the band's last performance in Edinburgh at The Corn Exchange in 2010. Plenty has changed for the New York band in the years since: key member Rostam Batmanglij left the band in 2016 to pursue solo projects, and the band later parted ways with their longtime independent label XL to sign with a major, Columbia Records. Their first album in six years, Father of the Bride, was met with widespread critical acclaim upon its release in May this year and expectations were high as the band kicked off their UK tour in Edinburgh at Usher Hall.
With a giant inflatable earth globe hanging above them onstage, frontman Ezra Koenig, bassist Chris Baio, and drummer Chris Tomson are joined by an additional four touring members. They open with a couple of tracks from 2010's Contra: the synthy 'White Sky', followed by the bouncy fan favourite 'Holiday'. All of Vampire Weekend's four albums are represented in the lengthy setlist, but it's particularly heavy on numbers from the Father of the Bride double album. Musically, the new songs sound like bright, sunny lullabies, but Koenig's dark, heavy lyrics about life and loss provide a stark contrast.
Koenig has said that Father of the Bride was influenced by American country singer Kacey Musgraves, and it's certainly evident on the twangy 'Sympathy' which sounds unlike anything they have played live before. The band turns the psychedelic 'Sunflower' into a long extended jam session that is well-received by the crowd. Despite missing the vocals of Danielle Haim (who sings on the recorded version), the Mark Ronson co-written 'This Life' is a definite standout, along with 'Harmony Hall', featuring impressive guitar riffs by touring band member Brian Robert Jones.
A somewhat reserved frontman, Koenig doesn't venture too far from his microphone all night, but bassist Chris Baio makes up for it by bouncing around the stage with a big smile stretched across his face. The band breeze through a two-hour set, playing 26 songs in total including the essential crowd-pleaser 'A-Punk' and even a cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'I'm Goin' Down'. The encore is done almost entirely on the fly with Koenig taking requests from the audience, happily obliging with 'Walcott' and 'Hannah Hunt', the latter requested by a guy who Koenig noticed had been 'going hard all night'. They close the night with two Modern Vampires of the City tracks, 'Worship You' and 'Ya Hey', perhaps as an olive branch for the fans, given that the band skipped Edinburgh on that album's tour six years ago. Despite line-up changes and a long time away, Vampire Weekend seem more self-assured than ever, and Edinburgh gladly welcomed them back with open arms.
Vampire Weekend, O2 Victoria Warehouse, Manchester, Sat 9 Nov; O2 Academy Birmingham, Mon 11 Nov; Alexandra Palace, London, Wed 13 & Thu 14 Nov.