Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Vampire Weekend’s performance at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco this past week as a part of their “Father of the Bride” tour encapsulated this famous adage perfectly.
Frontman Ezra Koenig recounted to the audience that it had been six whole years since the group’s last appearance in San Francisco. During this hiatus, Vampire Weekend evolved greatly, introducing new band members following the departure of Rostam Batmanglij who now has a career as a solo artist and producer. Koenig also took time himself to work on side projects, including the Apple Music talk show “Time Crisis”, the American-Japanese animated series featuring Jaden Smith “Neo Yokio”, and even a child with long-term girlfriend and “Parks and Rec” star Rashida Jones. Despite the whirlwind of changes that took place in the six year period between the band’s third album “Modern Vampires of the City” and their latest project “Father of the Bride,” Vampire Weekend did not cease to put on a show perfectly combining nostalgia and freshness. Nonetheless, the group today is much more than their three and a half minute indie anthems of 2008. It is, instead, a powerhouse of rock and performance at its best.
The group indeed played something old and something new, taking themselves back to their eponymous debut album of 2008 with tracks like “A-Punk” and “Oxford Comma” to their newest tracks off of “Father of the Bride” like “This Life” and “How Long?”. None of their tracks were too old to be heard again — this was not an instance of that one artist who just can’t seem to let go of that one song from their setlist. Instead, Vampire Weekend transformed each of their tracks, performing pieces entirely different from their recorded counterparts. Opening with an extended version of their cushy and playful “Sunflower” that incorporated heavy, distorted driven guitar solos, it became clear that Vampire Weekend is not just any other alternative band. The group seamlessly mixed their soft rock tunes with metal-inspired instrumentals that created a rock show at its finest. Nearly every song performed by the group included some spin that differentiated itself from the version on its respective album and showcased the depth of the group’s talent and performance. Listening to Vampire Weekend live provides an experience one simply cannot achieve through listening to a digital track alone.
As a part of the set, Koenig introduced something borrowed, namely a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Jokerman” as an ode to his favorite font. Recently on social media, the Vampire Weekend vocalist has appeared to be obsessed with everything involving the not-so-elegant font, highlighting it on his instagram page (@arze) and even interviewing the font’s creator in “Time Crisis”. Despite the association to an estranged font, however, the group’s cover was a change in pace worth slowing down for. A classic Dylan ballad, slow and comforting, Jokerman served not only as a time to appreciate the musicianship of Vampire Weekend’s new members through piano and guitar solos but also as a reminder of the group’s quirky nature and their grammar obsession.
Something blue. Besides their live rendition of “Big Blue,” the one blue thing about Vampire Weekend’s performance was perhaps the ending. But before leaving the stage, Koenig promised the crowd that there would not be another six-year wait until the band’s next appearance. The vocalist also offered recommendations to the crowd as an encore, including the soft, yet raw “2021” from their newest project and the driving, energetic “Walcott” from their first album. Digging deep into their discography brought about a jubilant and almost surreal closer. The crowd bounced and screamed with excitement upon Koenig repeating the lucky audience member’s request of Walcott.
Vampire Weekend’s live set is simply something not to miss, and the wait was most definitely worth it.
Contact Kimberly Batdorf at kbatdorf ‘at’ stanford.edu.