Vampire Weekend Fans Go Batty at Radio City
Vampire Weekend may not have brought out Kanye West and Beyonce during its gig in NYC, but the hometown band did have some help from "30 Rock" cast member Jack McBrayer last night (Sept. 16) at Radio City Music Hall.
As he introduced the band's encore, McBrayer, who plays Kenneth Parcell on the NBC show, was greeted with a roar of approval from the excited, young crowd. But girlish screams were the norm last night - a testament to the band's widespread success due to the release of its second album, "Contra," in January. The album became the 12th independently distributed album to top the Billboard 200 chart.
The second of three sold-out Vampire Weekend performances at Radio City this week, Thursday's concert kicked off with Los Angeles' Sub Pop darlings the Dum Dum Girls. Singer Dee-Dee Penny powered through the brief set despite suffering from the flu. Her illness seemed to lower her typically feminine pitch, recalling the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde in the process.
The deep female vocals continued as Baltimore's Beach House took the stage next. The band's ethereal harmonies and washed-out electronica mixed with a fog machine and psychedelic lights to create a hazy, intimate feeling inside the depths of Radio City. The rockers played a stunning 45-minute set consisting almost entirely of tracks off latest album, "Teen Dream." But for the audience, Beach House's performance was the calmness before the storm that was Vampire Weekend.
As Vampire Weekend took the stage, the crowd rose to its collective feet and stayed that way for the entirety of the performance. Opening with the plucky, perky "Holiday" (from "Contra"), Radio City was transformed into a dance club - one that plays Paul Simon-inspired Afro-pop to teenagers.
Video: Vampire Weekend perform Springsteen's "I'm Goin' Down" at Radio City
Vampire Weekend's 90-minute, 21-song set included almost every song in the band's two-album discography, as well as a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm Goin' Down," which the band has been playing frequently on its recent tour. The local boys may have been repping Jersey last night, but frontman Ezra Koenig spoke repeatedly about New York City. "I know New York can be a self-conscious city," Koenig told the audience. "Don't let anyone make you ashamed of who you are."
The crowd heeded the singer's advice, uninhibitedly fist-pumping and grooving in the aisles, which the Radio City staff tried to curb but barely achieved. Koenig increased the madness as Vampire Weekend headed into the second half of the show, asking fans to dance more. He joked about the formality of Radio City, saying, "You got your seat, but it's nothing but a gilded prison."
Vampire Weekend was tongue-in-cheek about the formal setting all night, lowering glass chandeliers from the ceiling throughout the set. It was oddly appropriate, however, for a band that formed at Columbia University and sings about Cape Cod and Louis Vuitton.
They tempered furious hits such as "Cousins" against stripped-down tracks, creating the concert's highlight with a calm performance of "I Think UR A Contra." Despite being the namesake of Vampire Weekend's most recent album, "Contra" was performed live for the first time on Wednesday, according to Koenig. "It took a while to get together," he told the crowd.