tue 10/12/2019

Vampire Weekend, O2 Academy, Birmingham review – clean-cut Americans fail to ignite | reviews, news & interviews

Vampire Weekend, O2 Academy, Birmingham review – clean-cut Americans fail to ignite

Vampire Weekend, O2 Academy, Birmingham review – clean-cut Americans fail to ignite

Ezra Koenig’s crew paint the town beige

Brian Robert Jones and his groovy afro

By the time Vampire Weekend reached Birmingham on their latest UK jaunt, they had unfortunately managed to mislay their support band, the colourful Songhoy Blues. This was a great shame, as the Malians would surely have added a bit of colour to the early part of an evening that would most certainly have benefitted from a bit of light and shade. Instead, the O2 Academy was treated to an extensive recording of baroque chamber music, piped through the PA system, that felt like it would never end.

However, end it thankfully did and onto the stage bounced Ezra Keonig, dressed in white trousers and a pale blue shirt, and a seven-piece Vampire Weekend, who similarly looked ready to provide the entertainment for a Sunday afternoon barbeque. Launching into “Sunflower” from their recent album Father of the Bride, the New Yorkers set the tone for a two-hour set of generally restrained and gentle vibes that kept a packed hall swaying along but one that was never in danger of losing its cool and really letting loose. Between songs, such as the African-groove inflected “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”, the Greta Morgan-assisted “Hold You Now” and the somewhat syrupy “Unbearably White” the audience did give out plenty of whoops and clapped along as new tunes began, but they soon seemed to tire and never got into the groove.

Given that Vampire Weekend gave the impression of an indie band fronted by David Byrne after a quirkiness bypass, ploughing through Paul Simon’s Graceland album, they were never going to cause a riot though. In fact, they even covered Simon’s “Late in the Evening”, though it was a tune that seemed to be new to the 20- and 30-somethings staring at the stage and just left them swaying in the breeze. Surprisingly, this was also the case when the band dropped bursts of “Son of a Preacher Man” and Toots and the Maytals’ “Pressure Drop” into their own “Obvious Bicycle” and “Diplomat’s Son”. Similarly, a dedication to Bernie Sanders seemed to leave no great impression on their Birmingham audience.

Well over an hour into the show, things did actually begin to pick up, and by the time Keonig’s crew took on “Cousins” from their sophomore album, Contra, and the ever-green “A-Punk”, guitarist Brian Robert Jones with his magnificent afro, managed to inject a bit of spirit into the proceedings, bouncing around and generally adding a bit of much needed liveliness on stage. However, this proved to be something of a false dawn and soon enough the tempo returned to a plodding gait with “Oxford Comma”, after which the band left the stage for all of about two minutes, before returning for an encore.

Picking up on some audience requests, Vampire Weekend finally set about “Mansard Roof” and “Walcott”, from their self-titled debut album, with something approaching some energy. But to these ears, it had been too long a wait, even if plenty of others around me did seem more than happy with the evening’s entertainment.

Vampire Weekend gave the impression of an indie band fronted by David Byrne after a quirkiness bypass, ploughing through Paul Simon’s Graceland album

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Share this article

Comments

Must have been at a different gig to me! They kicked off with an incredible blast of 'Sunflower' ending with a mind-blowing guitar solo crescendo. From the balcony I could see the smiles on the faces below which remained throughout the event. There's more to music than 'energy' and VW exemplify the idea of nuanced art-rock more than most their contemporaries.

I agree - we’ve been to a lot of gigs across a lot of genres, and this was one of the best. The energy was amazing, on stage and in the crowd - 2 hours of fantastic musicianship and a great evening - we all left buzzing and planning to see them again as soon as we can.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters