“IT’S the first night of our tour, and this is a good place to start,” mused Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig with a hint of understatement, as the packed-out Edinburgh crowd jumped for ever-more-feverish joy before his band. Vampire Weekend have been away for six years – or at least, that’s been the gap between their 2013 third album Modern Vampires of the City and this year’s follow-up Father of the Bride – and their fans appear to have remained loyally by their side.
Vampire Weekend, Usher Hall, Edinburgh ****
In line with Koenig’s move from the band’s origin city of New York to Los Angeles – and new parenthood alongside his partner, the actor Rashida Jones - the singer and guitarist has taken ever-greater control of the group’s sound, while subtly shifting it away from the bright, poppy East African highlife guitar style of their early days, towards a more typical American rock sound.
That the group covered Bruce Springsteen’s I’m Goin’ Down here was emblematic of this shift, as was Koenig’s positioning at the front of the stage as a more typical frontman. He’s the only member of the group who appears in promo photographs for the new album, while fellow founder members Chris Baio and Chris Tomson are incorporated amid a rich-sounding seven-piece line-up.
The roars for classic tracks A-Punk, Mansard Roof and Walcott (the latter a very welcome audience request) were augmented by the sense of familiarity around these songs, but the new album confirms Vampire Weekend as a band of compositional quality and longevity, from the pastoral country groove of Sunflower and Harmony Hall, to the future-focus of 2021 and the thunderous, epic evocation of American-Jewishness in the 21st century Jerusalem, New York, Berlin. This was a live introduction to a classic-in-waiting, from a band who are bound for the next level.