Sunday 21 July 2019

Vampire Weekend, Trinity College Dublin review: A set spanning their catalogue, Springsteen cover, and inflatable globes

5 stars

Vampire Weekend performs at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 13, 2014 in Manchester, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Vampire Weekend performs at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 13, 2014 in Manchester, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Brian Robert Jones (L) and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend perform on stage during the iHeartRadio Album Release Party with Vampire Weekend at iHeartRadio Theater on May 09, 2019 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
Vampire Weekend

Ed Power

Vampire Weekend were ripe for parody when they crawled from Columbia University in the mid-2000s. With their Ivy League education, boat shoes and wonderful hair, they seemed to have explicitly positioned themselves in opposition to hairy rocker cliches and headbanging machismo.

But their biggest departure from convention, it turns out, has been their longevity. Where many artists from their generation have faded away – often without even burning all that brightly – Vampire Weekend endure.

They have, if anything, grown more ambitious, and that despite the departure in 2016 of founder member Rostam Batmanglij. Among their crowning achievements is this year’s Father of the Bride: a double album that hopscotches between genres – indie, R&B, electronica and others –  like a lamb frolicking in a meadow. Not everyone liked it – I must confess my ambivalence – but those who did consider it one of the records of the year.

They came to Dublin straight from Glastonbury. But the genteel framing of Trinity arguably provided a more appropriate backdrop for their preppy pop. With his wavy curls and office-casual dress, singer Ezra Koenig, in particular, seemed to physically embody Vampire Weekend’s rigorous capriciousness (the rock swagger came from touring guitarist Brian Robert Jones).

What’s admirable about the group is that, having discovered their voice early on, they’ve never shied away from that early version of themselves. So though new songs such as opener Sunflower and the politely rollicking This Life charted a more formally complex course, they were still connected to the Paul Simon-goes-to-the-indie disco shimmer of their first several records.

Koenig stopped up at one point to reflect on how long it had been since the band last played a stand-alone show in Ireland. “Was it our first album…our second album? It’s been a while.”

With that perhaps in mind, the set spanned their catalogue (and also featured inflated globes bouncing across the sell-out attendance). White Sky and Holiday, from perhaps their finest LP, 2010’s Contra, showcased Koenig’s mastery of the more rugged side of alternative rock.

This was juxtaposed with breezier newer songs such as Unbearably White and This Life. As a mark of their versatility they even threw in a cover of Springsteen’s I’m Goin’ Down – the perfect set up for new fan favourite Flower Moon. Here and elsewhere, Vampire Weekend were in full bloom.

Read more: Summer music guide 2019: Intimate gigs, arena concerts, and the best of the music festivals

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