Vampire Weekend concert review from House of Blues Cleveland on July 12, 2012.
Last night (Thursday; 07.12.12), the well-educated lads from Vampire Weekend started a fresh tour at Cleveland’s own House of Blues.
Ezra Koenig and company formed back in 2006 while attending Columbia University and have become indie pop darlings ever since their single “A-Punk” hit the airwaves in 2008. Last playing in Cleveland in 2007 at the tiny Beachland Tavern, these young lads are now veterans to the indie world, having upgraded from the small tavern to a full sized club. Not unfamiliar with a venue this size, but for a smaller market like Cleveland, it was a nice surprise to see the venue sell out. Hitting the stage promptly at 9:00pm, Koening and company ripped through 20 songs in less than 90 minutes. One after another, after another; nonstop action from the stage as the quartet played nearly every song from their self-titled debut album as well as their most recent release, 2010’s ‘Contra,’ (which is not named after the video game).
Kicking off the show with the frenzy-ous “Cousins,” Vampire Weekend settled right in as they ran through song after song on their way to satisfying the sold-out crowd, who danced, jumped, and sang along to every song they knew. Fusing African beats and punk music, the band created a sound that simultaneously garnered praise and criticism, but led the way for a new sound the indie rock world embraced. “M79,” a song about a bus line often traveled, and “Run” kept the pace going as the latter song led to the first greeting by the band, with Koening referencing their first show here in Cleveland back in 2007. “Any of you there?” He asked. This, not surprisingly, got a loud reaction from the Vampire Weekend faithful in the crowd.
“Holiday,” which became popular thanks in part to a Honda commercial, was greeted with a warm response and was soon followed up by arguably their biggest hit and the launch pad to most of their success, the bouncy “A-Punk,” which had the floor shaking as the kids in the crowd went crazy, bopping up and down and singing along with the band “hey, hey, hey!” Slowing it down just a bit with “I Think Ur a Contra,” ” they then switched gears into a jammy-stylish “Diplomat’s Son,” no surprise given drummer Chris Tomson’s love of acclaimed jam band Phish.
There are times that the sound at the House of Blues is not the greatest. Of course, this is usually depending on where one is stationed for any given show. However, even in one of the “bad” spots for this sold-out show (downstairs, back by the bar area), I felt this night was the exception to the rule. Even in the back, with plenty of bar noise, the sound crew did a phenomenal job at maintaining the sound at such a high level, or maybe the crowd was just not as crappy as other shows I’ve seen at HOB…Either way, Vampire Weekend sounded pretty amazing.
Finishing up the opening set with the fast paced “Campus,” the grammatically correct “Oxford Comma,” and the rousing “Giving Up the Gun,” off ‘Contra,’ the band ran offstage for a brief moment to catch their breath and prepare for a short encore. 16 songs in one hour. Damn. I’m still amazed at how quickly they ran thru their set. Not that they play eight minute jams the likes of Phish, but to hammer out the songs as tightly as they did without missing a beat was impressive.
A short four song encore included, “One (Blake’s Got a New Face),” “Mansard Roof,” “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance,” and the intensely fun “Walcott” brought the show to a close a short 83 minutes after it began. A sold-out crowd wanting more as the band said their thanks and exited the stage, off to the road for more shows, including a headlining slot at Chicago’s Pitchfork Festival.