Vampire Weekend are ready for the big screen -- well, the big screen of the Internet, at least. In anticipation of their third studio album ("Modern Vampires of the City," due May 14 on XL), indie rock's nerdiest cool kids played Manhattan's Roseland Ballroom on Sunday night (Apr. 28), a show that was broadcast live online as part of American Express' Unstaged series. In that spirit, frontman Ezra Koenig gave the Internet a couple shout-outs, right along with the crowd and the city.
Fans were asked to tweet the show's official hashtag (#AmexUnstaged) in order to unlock exclusive online content, and they responded en masse, turning the hashtag into a trending topic. The old-timers on hand -- who still prefer the in-person appeal -- were treated to an opening set from Fred Armisen (who reprised his Margaret Thatcher-loving conservative punk bit from "SNL") and sightings of actors like Jonah Hill (posted on the front row of the VIP balcony), Zach Galifianakis and Jude Law.
Watch the performance below:
"Directing" the show was actor Steve Buscemi, who had previously taken part in a series of awkwardly awkward online promos with the band. The Brooklyn native/"Boardwalk Empire" gangsta came onstage for some "hey hey's" during "A-Punk," and fielded a request from the audience: "I'm proud of these guys; they've come a long way…. 'Ya Hey'? Is that a song?"
It was indeed, and although Buscemi wasn't up to speed on the new album's track list, the audience certainly was.
The crowd was an enthusiastic collection of twentysomethings who looked like they had gotten into the band's 2008 self-titled debut at some point in college and stayed loyal since. Likewise, the response to cuts from that album -- even deep cuts like "One (Blake's Got a New Face)" -- was impressive. "A-Punk" remained the set highlight, leading all other songs in fist pump ratio, although the response to already well-known cuts from the new album (mainly "Step" and "Diane Young") proved the old fans had been keeping up.
The band members weren't quite their usual charismatic selves, presumably playing for the all-powerful Internet feed moreso than the masses on hand. But the songs themselves benefited from this hyper self-awareness: seeing Vampire Weekend in a live setting is a reminder of how heavily the band's sound relies on drum and bass. Even the front-row audience member hoisting a bouquet of roses in the direction of Koenig should have realized what an integral role drummer Chris Tomson's spunky fills were playing in driving the band's jaunty pop songs. Meanwhile, bassist Chris Baio's skinny-jeaned knees certainly have a way of grooving along to his instrument in some strain of the Chuck Berry duckwalk.
"Modern Vampires of the City" stands to be the band's most musically accomplished work to date, and fans/web streamers got to hear six of its 12 tracks. Still, the Web-friendly gig reiterated the staying power of Vampire Weekend's 2008 debut. When the band first hit the scene -- largely through the help of blogs -- the idea of an indie rock act breaking through in such a way was still a novel concept. Sunday night's show confirmed that they're doing just fine, and still have the Internet on their side.
Here's the set list from Sunday night's show:
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
I Stand Corrected
Giving Up the Gun
One (Blake's Got a New Face)