Vampire Weekend Up the Ante at Greek Theatre Show

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Anna Vignet/Staff


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Attending a concert is a slippery slope. It may force you to realize how lifeless and socially inept your favorite singer actually is but it can also escalate your attachment to the artist from mildly interested to hopelessly devoted. Vampire Weekend accomplished the latter with their Saturday performance at the Greek, kicking off the second half of their Contra tour. Exuding the confidence that comes with having two certified-gold albums under their belts along with the hearts of screaming fangirls, the quartet launched an aurally and visually explosive set that displayed their endless energy.

In light of the recent lawsuit regarding the Contra cover, gone was the wide-eyed portrait of Kirsten that accompanied the first half of their tour. Instead, fans were greeted with a nifty backdrop that appeared at first to be swirls of "White Sky" lyrics. When the band slipped into somber numbers, however, it transformed into an illuminated map of the fictional "Port of Contra," providing an aesthetic representation of the tracks.

Openers the Very Best set the audience swaying with their ridiculously catchy blend of electronics and Afro-pop. But the second Vampire Weekend leaped onstage, their exuberance made the Very Best look like introverts. Understanding that the best way to pump up an audience is to give them something to dance to, Vampire Weekend shed their polished Ivy League shells and acted out the rock star dream. Bassist Chris Baio entertained the crowd with his hops and pelvic thrusts while Chris Tomson pounded the life out of the drums.

The band recognized that music is simply one aspect of the concert experience. Though the other opener, Beach House, pulled off an eargasmic exhibition of dreamy complexity, they seemed disconnected from the audience and performed behind an impenetrable wall. By striking contrast, Vampire Weekend constantly used the crowd to enhance their performance, whether asking for vocal backups or wiggling fingers. It was also rather flattering to know that they did their research on the city (unlike the Very Best, who kept calling us "San Francisco"). Prior to "California English," Koenig made a shout-out to Berkeley's Hapa club and later hoped that we could let go of our resentment towards Palo Alto for Blake's sake (he of the "New Face").

Say what you will about the quality of Contra, but put Vampire Weekend on a stage, and it'll be a struggle to resist their infectiousness. Their presence has an intensity that is absent from their studio sound. Whatever disposition a song might convey on record, Vampire Weekend amplified that onstage, flying across a spectrum of emotions. They fired out crowd-pleasers such as "Giving Up The Gun" and "Cousins" with a frenzy that was further augmented by blinding light shows. Yet they could easily shift to quiet dejection on poignant pieces. Their performance of the emotionally loaded "I Think UR A Contra" showed an even deeper level of melancholy, heightened by ghostly dark blue lighting and rolling smoke.

With such a high level of passion for their music, Vampire Weekend's dynamic charisma united the crowd. Their dedication to their work was so evident during their show that they could get fans screaming and dancing around to even their subpar tracks. As further proof, you know a band has really struck a chord in their audience when, after tossing their picks and sticks into the crowd, sheer chaos ensues. Word of advice? Hide the sacred object in your bag and run for your life. It certainly worked for me.


Take a sabbatical in the Port of Contra with Cynthia at [email protected]



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