Vampire Weekend @ Hollywood Bowl

The Very Best warmed up the audience with their traditional Malawian beats. Wearing a World Hunger Day shirt, Esau Mwamwaya sang in his native Chichewa as two dancers freely embodied the soul of the music. Next, Beach House was accompanied by a keyboardist and drummer to fill out the body of their music.  Alex Scally played the majority of the set sitting down, stomping about, while Victoria Legrand hid her eyes behind her long brown bangs, entranced in the swelling sounds.  Their performance, softly lit, exuded subtle power, being robust and strong yet reserved.

Playing their first show at the Hollywood Bowl, Vampire Weekend entered the stage to DJ Kholed’s “All I Do Is Win” featuring Ludacris and T-Pain. The crowd was on its feet cheering the moment the band made their grand entrance. The appropriate introduction ran straight into opening song “Holiday.”  After a couple songs, singer Ezra Koenig addressed the crowd, “I know we’re just meeting each other for the first time.  I don’t want to rush things but if you want to sing along, this is a pretty easy song.  Don’t be shy, that’s what big amphitheaters like this are for!”

Their songs were energetic and lively, keeping everyone dancing.  The show was heavily impacted by the stage production: flashing colors, strobes, rolling lights, spotlights and even chandeliers illustrated the music visually by responding thematically to every note and inflection.  Spotlights directed attention and intensified the individual contribution of each band member. The elaborate array of colorful lights made the stage pulse, incorporating unique sequences like the staccato of hypnotizing flashes of blue and red to create a 3D effect.

Vampire Weekend’s unique qualities, such as Koenig’s quick vocals and Chris Tomson’s spot-on drums, are much more striking live. Seeing the musicians perform their complex sequences and instrumentals, such as Rostam Batmanglij’s piano solo in “Taxi Cab,” makes the music sound even better. The songs were faster-paced and much more zealous than their recordings, livening things up and intensifying the crowd’s response. The set was well arranged, interchanging smoothly between strong danceable beats and slower paced ballads, increasing the stamina of both the band and the audience.  They debuted “I Think You’re A Contra” for the first time in L.A. and got an excited, illustrious response.

Koenig encouraged a lot of crowd interaction, amiably announcing to ‘let inhibitions go’ and just ‘do what you feel.’  The audience excitedly cooperated in the call and return chorus of Blake’s “Got A New Face” and even held their hands in the air wiggling their fingers (as demonstrated by Koenig) for the entirety of “Mansard Roof.”  “This is the largest crowd we’ve ever attempted this with. Thank you. You’ve got some beautiful arms,” Koenig called out at the end of the song.

Each member illustrated their acute musicianship during solos and instrumentals, demonstrating the strength of their current grasp on contemporary music. Despite Vampire Weekend’s strong hour long set, the sold-out crowd still cried for an encore, welcoming the band back to the stage with an ear-piercing roar.  They ended their Los Angeles show with their traditional finale song, “Walcott.”  Producing a wall of sound matched by the crowd’s enthusiasm, Vampire Weekend finished on a vigorous note.

Britt Witt

Originally published on Vampire Weekend / LA Record