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An Odyssey of Growing Up

January 19th, 2010

Vampire Weekend – Webster Hall – January 18, 2010

Vampire Weekend - The Bowery Ballroom - January 18, 2010

The four boys of Vampire Weekend took the stage last night at Webster Hall with an enormous screen-printed cover of their latest album, Contra, hanging behind them. The face of the blonde from the 50-foot-high cover art stared ominously out at the crowd. The band smiled winningly and immediately waltzed into “White Sky,” an amphetamine-amped angle on a chord progression from Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies.” If it was a night of influences, it was also a homecoming—an ode to all the chosen parts that made the album art stand five stories high.

It would be a set of contradictions, songs half drawn from their eponymous debut album and the other from their six-day-old sophomore effort. From the outset, the band ripped through “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” “M79” and stand-out live track “Cousins.” Keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij, frontman Ezra Koenig and bassist Chris Baio all all wore blue checked dress shirts, in the kind of gesture that is either hilariously planned or embarrassingly accidental. In the dead middle, the band played the haunting “Taxi,” lit from below, casting huge shadows on the face of their album art. It was impossible not to think of these four as shadow giants, both legitimately enormous and completely inflated in the light of their new celebrity.

After the equally spot-on “Diplomat’s Son,” Koenig thanked the crowd for joining the band on “this odyssey of growing up.” The band then played the opening to “Giving Up the Gun,” a meditation on modernism and the loss of innocence in the face of flux. Of course, as much as Vampire Weekend is different than the band we saw three years ago, they still closed with “Walcott.” It was a song of departure for a band just arriving. In the city that bore them, an unflinching, five-story stare hung in the background and shadows shuffled off to stage right. —Geoff Nelson

Photos courtesy of Greg Notch | photography.notch.org/music