Except the one about the strange graffiti
A lot of questions surrounding Vampire Weekend at the moment. Like: who is in the band? When will they release a new album? And why are they playing in front of a backdrop that features some bad graffiti including a frog with a peace sign on it and ‘Sony’, the name of their new but unfashionable record label? Some of these get answered during their first UK performance in just over four years. Back then, at Reading and Leeds 2014, there was four of them. Just over a year later pivotal member Rostam Batmanglij left the band saying, “my identity as a songwriter needs to stand on its own.”
While he’s been busy (a solo album, a joint project with The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser), Vampire Weekend have been taking their time. When the New York band booked this headline slot at End of the Road in January it suggested, that by this point, all might be revealed. Some of it was.
Most comes to light when Ezra Keonig – who looks comfortable in what looks like sweat pants and hotel slippers – responds to questions shouted by fans squished at the front barrier towards the summit of the show. When someone hollers “is the lady in the band?” he introduces keys player Greta Morgan (“my third cousin by marriage”) and guitarist Brian Robert Jones. Another percussionist sits opposite drummer Chris Tomson on a riser, and a keyboard player to his right. In all, there’s seven of them on stage. Another asks about the album. Koenig says, “Oh, who cares? No, it’s done. We’ll talk about that later.” Then adds: “we hoped we’d be doing a victory lap with a our new album. But, you know, this is what happens. Life goes on.” He doesn’t explain the bad graffiti.
In a wink to their proximity to Salisbury they walk on stage to Peter Gabriel’s ‘Solsbury Hill’ (Vampire Weekend being the most Vampire Weekend they ever have). They also work in a snippet of the track later, and keenly let people know that they are aware they’re not in Salisbury in case they thought they were geographically ignorant. Very correct, very Vampire Weekend. What we get is a well-rehearsed, high-energy run-through of the highlights from their three albums. Plus a version of SBTRKT’s ‘New Dorp. New York’, which Koenig featured on. In contrast to EOTR’s two most recent Saturday night headliners – Bat for Lashes playing ‘The Bride’ (about a dead husband-to-be) in 2016 and Father John Misty (playing, well, stuff about how we’re all fucked in 2017) – Vampire Weekend keep things light. There’s ‘A-Punk’, ‘Oxford Comma’ and ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ – all sounding fresh despite being more than a decade old now.
The highlight comes when, as the band reappear for a short encore, Koenig invites a group of excitable fans on stage. “Do you know the words to ‘Walcott’?” he says. They shake their heads. “Ok, you can dance then.” And they do, wildly. Including a guy in a wheelchair to boasts the best moves of the entire festival. It’s a celebratory way to close a show that’s more entertaining than revealing. As they walk off Boyz II Men’s ‘End of the Road’ pipes over the P.A. system. Their decision or not, it’s very wry. Very Vampire Weekend.
Vampire Weekend @ End of the Road, Saturday 1 September
Photo by: Burak Cingi