Show Review: Vampire Weekend @ Austin City Limits (3/17)

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As SXSW 2013 came to end on Sunday, dotted by emerald wardrobes and the overwhelming scent of corned-beef and Guinness, NYC’s Vampire Weekend rounded out their trio of shows for the week atop the Moody Theater stage. Serving as the opening act for the 39th Season of Austin City Limits and for many festival goers, the pièce de résistance, the quartet served up a short, yet tight set leaving many wishing for more. Follow the jump for the rest of the review…

Before the set began, I couldn’t help but think how quickly the group has risen to the preeminent status allowing for this highly respected appearance at Austin City Limits. It feels like just yesterday I spun the self-titled debut in Waterloo Records and hearing a week later about their first ATX performance on the inside stage at the Mohawk. At that time I genuinely thought I could catch them next time in a similarly small venue, obviously not expecting the debut to catch the world afire. Catchy hooks and playful lyric styling are certainly the cornerstone of the band’s foundation and this was on full display Sunday evening.

Excitement flowed throughout the venue and soon Terry Likona took the stage to introduce the group after the seemingly ever-growing laundry list of sponsors to the show’s production. Not surprisingly, the event was quite the draw, prompting ACL to open up the Balcony level seating in the Moody. It’s also no surprise that an unproportionately large amount of the crowd were young college-aged coeds, obviously swooning over front-man, Ezra Koening’s uniquely charming drawl; just hoping to catch a wayward glance. The awkward white-boy dance moves of bassist, Chris Baio, kept my eyes entertained if not puzzled, while Tomson (drums) and Batmanglij (keyboards) added some well-needed flair to the stage’s vast emptiness.  With little to no banter throughout, Ezra and Co. were strictly business cranking into ‘Cousins’ and ‘White Sky’ from the band’s second album, Contra. Although the band was on stage to promote the drop of their latest LP, Modern Vampires of the City, (releasing May 7th in the US), it’s was quickly apparent that the band was happy to fulfill the audience’s clear desire to play the hits. ‘Cape Cod’ and ‘M79’ from the debut self-titled album followed up, which clearly thrilled the aforementioned Co-eds before we heard the first of 3 new tracks, ‘Diane Young’, which follows strongly in the tradition placed by the previous efforts, though allowing the band to release some solid musicianship. Of the new tracks, of which ‘Unbelievers‘ and ‘Ya Hey’, were the others, ‘Young’ was clearly a welcomed departure in tone for the group.

Though this reviewer would have loved to hear more from the yet to be released LP, (ala Flaming Lips’ Set @ Auditorium Shores) it remained apparent that the group was straight and to the point, obviously tired from a long week. To this effect, they kept the set as short and sweet as possible, all while throwing in the biggest hits such as ‘A. Punk’, ‘Horchata’, and ‘Give Up the Gun’. This professionalism no doubt delighted an exhausted ACL/Moody crew. A short break before an obviously eminent encore brought the band out again with ‘One (Blake’s Got a New Face)‘, which got the crowd passionately yelling the refrain, and ‘Mansard Roof’, before ending with a reprise of ‘Diane Young’. Ezra thought they could do it better the second time and he was right.

Overall, the set was more or less what you would expect from a band who’s pedigree lies in the tight, catchy pop song. There’s little room for fluff and really there’s no need for it; the substance lies in the song construction and the often unusual song writing ability of Ezra and Rostam (Batmanglij). It remains to be seen if Modern Vampires can complete the trifecta and the band can continue their momentum. It appears at least that the guys are not afraid to grow with their fan-base and evolve their sound as well as their story. It’s certainly fun to be along for the ride, wherever it may take them.

Also, Kudos to the ACL Crew for another great production. The Moody Theater continues to set the bar high here for venues. Check out the flyer and setlist from the show, as well as a sketch from yours’ truly from up in the nose-bleeds. #notcomplaining #notabadseatinthehouse

 

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