Vampire Weekend is a spectacle from the moment you see what sort of crowd the self-declared “Upper West Side Soweto” band attracts in a city like Phoenix. A well-meshed mass of young flannel-wearing hipsters gladly gathers alongside middle-aged couples that you might expect more likely to find at a Bruce Springsteen concert.
“What’s up Phoenix?” Frontman Ezra Koenig asked nonchalantly as he strode on the stage. “It’s nice to see you again.”
Touring for their May album “Modern Vampires of the City,” Vampire Weekend displays maturity that a vast majority of bands in their genre tend to disregard. Koenig wittily works through the band’s deliberately tricky compositions while delivering a fun, happy-go-lucky performance.
It appeared that dark new songs from the band’s third album would dominate the set until bassist Baio and the multi-instrumentalist Batmanglij gracefully transitioned into a slower version of the crowd-pleasing summer anthems “Horchata” and “A-Punk” from the band’s first two records, 2008’s “Vampire Weekend” and 2010’s “Contra.”
A calculated build-up to the preppy “Campus” and “Bryn” brought the crowd to an energy fit for a band with more than a few diehard fans. Koenig smirked as a few teenagers hoisted themselves up to crowdsurf.
The band thoughtfully took the time to pay respect to their older songs, slowing down to showcase the signature rhythms in “Horchata” and allow drummer Tomson to embellish the song with a breakdown.
More importantly, Vampire Weekend’s show in Phoenix wasn’t just Koenig’s stage. The frontman stepped back for bassist Chris Baio and Tomson, who showcased their ability to engage and hold a crowd throughout several songs.
At times, you wanted to walk onto the stage, shake each member of the band, and tell them to ditch the strobe lights and flashy set. The group’s charisma and cooperative dynamic alone was enough to fill the stage. Forget the busy floral wallpaper, floating alabaster columns and embellished everything.
“Phoenix, you’ve always been good to us.” Koenig mused between songs.
After the band left the stage, a large noticeable presence left with them.The crowd deflated, but a few dedicated fans continued cheering.
“Thanks for waiting, Phoenix,” Koenig said with a wink as he ambled onstage for an encore of old favorite songs, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “One (Blake’s Got A New Face).”
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