Vampire Weekend @ Birmingham Academy 2 – 2nd May 2008

Vampire Weekend — Ezra Koenig & Chris Baio

Vampire Weekend‘s second ever British gig (or so the band told us) had been sold out for weeks so the venue was absolutely crammed with fans both young and old. This, however, raised the question about why the gig was not moved to the larger Academy space. If it had been then people would have actually been able to see the action on stage as a suspicious amount of very tall people made up the front part of the audience! Uncomfortable as I was, I did feel rather lucky to have my complimentary free pass to what was certainly the hottest ticket in town.

First up were support act White Williams. The band came on stage silently with no introduction. The guitarist wore a green coat with his hood firmly on….the only reason for this that I can think of is that it was either because the New Yorkers could not cope with what had actually been a hot day by Birmingham standards, or were paying tribute to the Gallagher brothers! When the band started to play I initially thought they were doing a live sound check but as the sounds built together and a simple bass drumbeat kicked in I realised that they had actually begun. The band at first created a very wide, synth based soundscape with the inclusion of what I believe to be known as a synth flute….think of the Gorillaz song ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’ and you might get what I mean. This long introduction I think phased a lot of the audience but when a more complex, rhythmic drumbeat kicked in with the vocals the band made a lot more sense and I began to warm to them a little. Performance wise however, the band did not seem to warm to the crowd until after a fair few numbers. The singer did not really make any kind of direct contact with the audience and sang to the side of the stage. In fact the entire band seemed totally absorbed in themselves. When the band ‘warmed up’ however, they seemed a lot more open to interact with the audience and made themselves seem a lot more likeable.

The general sound of White Williams is very much based around synth and effects. Reverb was used in heavy quantities on everything and a fast echo was often encorparated on the vocals which meant that when the singer did eventually address the audience, his words became inaudible due to the effects on his microphone line. I definitely believe that if the band relied less heavily on effects then they would appear to have more substance because with the amount they had the meaning of their music was unfortunately lost on me.

Vampire Weekend seemed to relieve the crowd when they came in. They was a eurphoric amount of cheers as they took to the stage. Immediately as they broke into their first song I felt the earth move (so excited were the audience that they began dancing after the first line of the first song was sung.) Lead singer Ezra Koenig had a exuded charisma from the first chord and had a brilliantly crisp clear voice meaning that you could hear every syllable that passed his lips.

The African music (apparently called ‘afropop’) that the group are cited to be inspired to create sharp rhythms perfect for dancing to and dance the crowd did. Their synth was used to create a variety of different timbres including harpsichord (M79) and flute (A-Punk.) The brightness of the clean guitar and bass sounds reminded me a little of the Beach Boys. Very inoffensive and incredibly catchy.

Vampire Weekend — Ezra KoenigVampire Weekend — Ezra Koenig

It was also very evident that Vampire Weekend have a huge Birmingham fanbase. The band were very enigmatic and addressed the audience regularly. At one point they claimed to prefer our Birmingham to Birmingham Alabama, much to the delight of the crowd, who clapped along to nearly every song and despite a lot of them being rather intoxicated, listened patiently to the one song example of new material that the band decided to play. Their new song was more experimental with the synth, with singer Ezra putting his guitar down to sing and dance but it was instantly catchy and shows that Vampire Weekend are going from strength to strength.

Vampire Weekend — Ezra Koenig & Chris Baio

Audience favourites and set highlights included 3rd song on the setlist ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ and of course, former single ‘A Punk’ which had the whole crowd (I admit to putting my notepad away as well) frantically bobbing around in a mad mass of energy. This was brilliantly followed up by ‘Blakes Got a New Face’ to which the audience exchanged dancing for singing/shouting (the singing part was, to be honest, debatable!)

As I’m sure you will be able to tell by now; it was a great evening and next time Vampire Weekend visit, the larger stage of the Academy surely beckons. Get your ticket straight away.

Review – Frankie Ward
Photos – Bianca Barrett

About Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *