Live Review: Vampire Weekend @ O2 Academy Birmingham, 11.11.19

Words & Photos: Philip Giouras

Ahead of two massive shows at London’s 10,000 capacity Alexandra Palace this week, Vampire Weekend’s ‘Father Of The Bride’ World Tour came to Birmingham’s O2 Academy last night. Due to unfortunate circumstances, the tours support, Songhoy Blues, couldn’t perform. While most bands would axe the slot or perhaps draft in a replacement, Vampire Weekend instead treated fans to an extended 2 hours plus performance.

It was an unconventional performance from a band that never likes to conform to the norm. Opening with a 10 minute extended version of ‘Sunflower’ taken from their latest record, the song was a showcase of their musicianship. Their guitars clashed, almost in battle, as frontman Ezra Koenig jammed out riffs with lead guitarist Brian Robert Jones. This was only the first of at least 4 different extended songs throughout the night, as ‘Obvious Bicycle’, ‘Diplomat’s Son’ and ‘New Dorp’ all received improvised jam sections, further cementing Vampire Weekend’s natural progression towards an American rock jam band in the vein of Grateful Dead and Phish. There also has to be a shout-out to Ezra’s snake hips, emulating American legend Elvis Presley’s swagger, with his guitar almost becoming an extra body part.

At their heart, Vampire Weekend is still very much an indie pop-rock band and their various hits were scattered throughout the night. Even 11 years later indie-pop anthem ‘A-Punk’ receives a raucous and beloved welcome, as does a blistering rendition of ‘Cousins’ and ‘Diane Young’. Newer tracks taken from this years ‘Father Of The Bride’ are also warmly received and fast becoming classics for the band. ‘Unbearably White’, ‘This Life’ and ‘Harmony Hall’ were greeted by mass singalongs and a feeling of genuine joy from the audience.

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Make no mistake, this performance was definitely catered towards the groups hardcore fans with a heap of album tracks and even a request portion towards the evening’s conclusion. One young man was visibly delighted when his request was granted, after holding out a sign for ‘Mansard Roof’ aloft in the air for nearly 3 hours. 

The whole evening was delightfully strange and the band’s insistence to change their whole setlist night after night means no two performance on this tour will be remotely similar. What you are guaranteed to get is a band that is at the pinnacle of their career, entering their third decade as a group. Seasoned musicians and one of the world’s most exciting live. They don’t come to England often (this being their first return in six whole years) so make sure to catch Vampire Weekend this week at Alexandra Palace while you still have the chance. You can find tickets here:

(Wednesday is Sold Out but you can still get tickets for Thursday’s show here.)

Setlist

  1. Sunflower (Extended 10 minute Stonerflower version)
  2. Unbelievers
  3. Boston (Ladies of Cambridge)
  4. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
  5. Sympathy
  6. Bambina
  7. Finger Back
  8. Rich Man
  9. Unbearably White
  10. Step
  11. Horchata
  12. New Dorp, New York
  13. This Life
  14. Hold You Now
  15. Harmony Hall
  16. Diane Young
  17. Cousins
  18. A-Punk
  19. Late In The Evening (Paul Simon Cover)
  20. Oxford Comma
  21. Obvious Bicycle (Son Of A Preacher Man outro)

    Encore

  22. Flower Moon
  23. Mansard Roof (Request)
  24. Diplomats Sun (Request)
  25. Walcott

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