Review: Vampire Weekend at Merriweather Post Pavilion, Sept. 11
Preppy New Yorkers Vampire Weekend played their first concert in Maryland Saturday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion. In a brisk two-hour set where they played crowd favorites like “A-Punk” and covered Bruce Springsteen, the boys were as well-behaved as Lawrence Welk.
After local dream pop duo Beach House finished their opening set, the boys sheepishly took the stage promptly at 9:30 p.m. There was no rock star entrance here. No late arrivals, no chants from the audience screaming the band’s name in anticipation. The lights were just briefly dimmed, and the boys materialized. Where the crowd had politely received Beach House, shrieks exploded then as if Justin Bieber had been beamed in.
High school girls and suburban moms alike swooned as the band kicked off the show with “Holiday.” That's the thing about Vampire Weekend: it's-a-good-on-paper band. The kind of band you'd take home to meet your mother. They're clean dressers - big on Dockers and Adidas Sambas; went to a good school - no review of the band forgets to mention their Ivy League beginnings; and play the kind of friendly jams mom will approve of. On the Merriweather text-message JumboTron, at least one fan proposed to lead singer Ezra Koenig.
It’s easy to see their rise to the top of the charts. Parents hear their contemporaries in the band’s Peter Gabriel-Paul-Simonesque vernacular; there were a lot of moms doing the white-person-overbite shuffle last night. And young listeners hear a Dave Matthews for the aughts. With this kind of whitebread appeal, Vampire Weekend is dangerously close to becoming “that band lots of white people like.”™
[Set list after the jump.]
There were so many suburban mothers and daughters, couples and their young children, that the crowd could have easily been swapped with Bieber’s at the Maryland State Fair. The most honestly rockish moment of the night came during “A-Punk,” when the five-year-old next to me was gyrating so wildly I thought her parents might have fed her peyote buttons instead of candy corn.
Nowhere during their show did the band come near that little girl’s abandon. Is it really a rock show if there isn’t a hair out of place on the lead singer by the end of the night? If his Dockers are not sweat-stained? Yes, their playing was competent, but at the end of the day, it’s still the kind of music you’ll hear as background at Urban Outfitters; muzak for the Pitchfork set.
This was particularly clear when they covered Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m goin down,” a defensive kiss-off ballad that Vampire Weekend rendered merely moving, a song to make out to when the babysitter’s not watching.
A highlight came during "One (Blake’s got a brand new face),” when drummer Christopher Tomson whacked his sticks together and the crowd clapped along in what felt like an honest-to-god lighters in the air moment. Later, multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij -profiled in the Washington Post Saturday, by the way – took second lead on a song, revealing an understated and actually, very sweet tenor. It’s a shame he doesn’t put it to use more often.
The boys have nothing to do with this, but memo to Merriweather: $6 for a hot dog - really? are these magic wieners you're selling? Reconsider, please.
In a nutshell: Lawrence Welk for the Pitchfork set.
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
I Stand Corrected
(Here, I sort of lost interest)
One (Blake's Got a Brand New Face)
I'm going down
A complete set list should be posted by fans at setlist.fm later
Photo: Josh Sisk/Special to The Baltimore Sun