In The Flesh...Vampire Weekend - Live At Edmonton Events Centre

>> Thursday, 18 March 2010

A ‘holy shit!’-inducing long line of people waiting to get inside. Opportunistic entrepreneurs offering up the sold-out ticket at a (surely inflated) price. Security rooting through bags and patting down fresh-faced concert goers. Fans hemmed in so tight near the stage that even clapping was difficult.

A description of Edgefest ’99, right?

Actually, this was the scene at Vampire Weekend’s sold-out show Sunday night at the prosaically-named Edmonton Events Centre, a venue I’m told houses about 2000. And I was there!

EEC was, much to my surprise and delight, too small for Vampire Weekend. You know, those four unaffected preppies hailing from upstate New York, who love khakis and polos almost as much as bouncy, infectious afropop. Next stop for these lads just might be Rexall Place (Edmonton’s MTS Centre). Or maybe tickets were just too cheap and attracted both diehard and casuals. $26 was a steal of a deal.

No matter. The overly packed house was what it was.

Kicking off their expansive North American tour in support of Billboard-chart-topping Contra (sorry fellow Winnipegers, no dates here yet), the fun-loving foursome surpassed all my expectations, busting through a 75-minute set that covered almost everything to date.

Visually accompanied by five chandeliers dangling above and a blown-up Contra-album-cover backdrop, Vampire Weekend’s beta test for the tour (read: opening night) went smoothly.  Singer/guitarist Ezra Koening, keyboardist Rostam Batmangli, drummer Chris Thomson, and bassist Chris Baio seamlessly reconstructed the many toothsome grooves populating their discography, at times even building on those feel-good summery vibes (“Cape Cod Kwanzaa” was particularly amazing). A live string section would’ve made songs like “M79” even better – the canned strings sounded, well, as best as keys can – but smaller bands like Vampire Weekend don’t really have that luxury. Yet.

As a frontman Ezra Koening proved himself a charming, confident leader with unchecked energy. By show’s end Koening’s light-red plaid shirt was maroon and he had to drape a white towel around his perspiring neck, so he was every bit as sweaty as his enraptured fans.

It was clear to me that the impassioned, dynamic and ridiculously entertaining Vampire Weekend deserves their success, and the troop of excitable fans following in their wake.

Opener The Blow was a mess (no photos, sorry). Essentially a one-woman show, The Blow consisted of a wiry, wispy-haired singer who belted out art-pop numbers over programmed beats, music that was challenging yet still accessible and likeable. Dirty Projectors quickly sprang to mind. Her set was sophomoric and mired in unprofessionalism, making me question whether she had ever performed in front of a crowd (I suspect parts were intentional, but too off-putting to be considered endearing). She asked, mid-song, if she were in key, inquired about how much time she had left, and talked incessantly about a song she wrote for an unnamed celebrity who is “much more attractive than me.” The banter and self-pity triggered many deep groans.

Sometimes it’s best to just shut up and play. Especially when your songs are quite good.

Infinite Playlist: Beach House - Teen Dream


Young Icelander,  19 March 2010 at 09:35  

I really like Contra, Horchata in particular. Although I've no idea what Horchata is....

willlllllll,  23 March 2010 at 22:21  

i think you drink it.

Mykael 23 March 2010 at 23:11  

From the all-knowing wikipedia:

"Horchata or orxata is the name for several kinds of traditional beverages, made of ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, barley, or tigernuts (chufas)."

Sound d-lish!

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