Review by Matt Franks with Photography by Katja Ogrin

Whisper it but it’s been over ten years since self titled first album of Vampire Weekend was released. An album, which quickly became the soundtrack to the final year of my university life. Much has changed since those heady days. Unaffected by the 2016 departure of Rostam Batmanglij (whose influence is still very much felt on newer tracks), Vampire Weekend have gone from NYC indie newcomers to seasoned mainstream live artists. From my point of view, I have gone from a skinny graduate to slightly overweight father of one. Of the two entities, one has aged better than the other. The sold out crowd, who queued around the corner in order to get in, were treated to a night of hits that ranged from sharp Indie Classics like A Punk to slower melancholic songs like Unbearably White.

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The songs of Father of the Bride are less accessible than their counterparts such as Vampire Weekend and Modern Vampires of the City, even so, Koenig and co continue to evolve in their quality without leaving behind that simple charm that has been present since the debut, with tonight being no exception.

The gig begins with new hit ‘Sunflower’. Its proggy bass scales and curling guitar licks warms up the crowd before the extended guitar solo and crowd favourite, Unbelievers start the show with a bang. It takes two songs for Koenig to address the crowd. The simple “Hey, what’s up? We’re Vampire Weekend. Nice to see you Birmingham!” is enough to be met with a roar. Throughout the gig there is not much interaction with the crowd but Koenig is able to masterfully manipulate the audience with some wry smirks and hand movements. It is very apparent that this was now a much more polished product from the band that I saw over a decade ago in Oxford.

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This was very much a gig of peaks and valleys in terms of tempo not enjoyment. The Columbia University graduates have an uncanny ability to shift the tone of erratic rhythms to moments of almost tranquillity and peacefulness in a matter of one song. The Classic Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, techno flamenco Sympathy and the jaunty ‘Bambina’ rile the crowd and raise the pace. The mood is abruptly slowed, however, Koenig’s voice continues to entice the crowd throughout the set even in the calmer moments like Steps and Horchata.

The band’s back catalogue is a mix of classical, folk and reggae influences highlighted by the covers of Paul Simon, Dusty Springfield and Toots and the Maytals, but the resulting sound is always completely one of their own – always being distinctly Vampire Weekend-y.

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The gig crescendos with familiar hits that fire up the audience, who had began to wane after a mammoth two hour set. ‘Cousins’, the aforementioned ‘A Punk’ and ‘Walcott’ as well as Mansford Roof and Diplomat’s Son (both requested by the audience) strike a chord with the crowd – who have already been charmed by Koenig and his promises to return to Birmingham soon.

Throughout the gig it is apparent that the band really comes into their own in the delicate arrangements and succulent production. It’s not so much the melodies that stick in your head, but certain percussive interludes or Koenig’s vocal gymnastics as well as the skilfully placed sumptuous string trill refrains. The evening leaves me with the clear thought that Vampire Weekend are simply a really enjoyable band to watch.

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