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Concert Review: Vampire Weekend

Concert Review: Vampire Weekend

“This is the coldest show we’ve ever played!”

Edgefield Concerts on the Lawn, Troutdale, OR
09/28/2019

“This is the coldest show we’ve ever played!” claimed Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig towards the middle of the band’s set last weekend. Edgefield is a former county jail turned fantasia for adults on the edge of the Columbia River Gorge. The property sports a hotel, numerous bars, a soaking pool, vineyard and restaurants. It is the perfect spot for a summer show on a warm night where many fans elect to lounge on the lawn and quaff beer.

However, a rare thunder and hail storm ripped through the area a few hours prior to the show, leaving the field soggy and cold. Exhalation like smoke surrounded people’s heads as they breathed. Fans bundled up in heavy coats and knit caps. It was an interesting scene for a band like Vampire Weekend and its sunny sounds.

Touring behind new album, Father of the Bride, Koenig came ready to party, playing a 135-minute, 27-song blitz that touched on all four of Vampire Weekend’s albums and even tossed in a cover or two for good measure. The band has been changing things up night after night, playing wildly different sets at each outing. This is also the group’s first major tour since Rostam Batmanglij left.

Koenig and company didn’t let the cold weather stop them, kicking off with Father of the Bride banger “Sympathy.” An outlier on a record of pastoral charm and folky overtones, “Sympathy” was a great choice to turn the concert into an immediate dance party. Rather than only play new material, the band then reached back with “Unbelievers” from Modern Vampires of the City and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” arguably their most popular song from their 2008 self-titled debut.

Many of the songs sounded note for note the same as the album versions, and that’s great for people who want to sing along to favorites such as “M79” and “Step.” The band did shake some things up though, giving us an extended jam at the end of “Sunflower” that allowed new guitarist Brian Robert Jones (wearing shorts!) and bassist Chris Baio (in a sleeveless shirt!) the chance to stretch out a bit. We also got a mellow, blissed-out version of “Giving Up the Gun.” Koenig also sprinkled references to Dusty Springfield and Toots & the Maytals into some of the songs, riffing on “Son of a Preacher Man” and “Pressure Drop.” During the encore, the band turned in a lively version of Paul Simon’s “Late in the Evening.”

Though we didn’t get “Hannah Hunt,” Koenig went heavy on the older stuff, with 16 of the 27 songs coming from the band’s first three albums. A run of “Diane Young,” “Cousins” and “A-Punk” got people onto their feet and dancing, exorcizing the cold weather. It was a good night to sell faux Vampire Weekend university sweatshirts, which clocked in at $60 (don’t ask about the $50 tie-dye shirts).

As time wound down, Koening took requests from the audience, playing “Diplomat’s Son” for some guy in a tie-dye Scooby-Doo shirt and “Holiday” for another wearing a Bernie Sanders tee. When the show finally come to a close with ecstatic version of “Walcott,” Koenig had most everyone up and dancing. To hell with the bad weather, the infectious sounds of Vampire Weekend won.

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