VAMPIRE WEEKEND ★★★★
Forum Theatre, January 7
The most impressive moments of Vampire Weekend’s epic three-hour set came during the encore, when frontman Ezra Koenig asked for spontaneous requests from the audience. Picking punters at random, the polished seven-piece effortlessly launched into unrehearsed songs such as Diplomat’s Son, the rare B-side Ottoman and lesser-known early track The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance, with skill and nuance.
The night was off to a “rocky start”, according to Koenig, when sound troubles forced the indie-pop favourites off-stage for two lengthy delays just a few songs into the set. It marred the rest of the gig with a slight anxiety that the speakers could blow a third time and end the show early – more bad luck after bushfire warnings cancelled the band’s other planned Victorian gig, the headline slot at Falls Festival in Lorne on New Year’s Eve. Luckily things held together and the US band powered through a rollicking, upbeat, 27-song set – its first in Melbourne in six years.
Things have changed for Vampire Weekend in the interim, with creative powerhouse Rostam Batmanglij leaving the group to further his booming solo and producing career, and Koenig moving from New York to Los Angeles. The subsequent album, the well received Father of the Bride, is a departure from the African-tinged, Paul Simon-meets-Ivy League sound the band became known for, yet no less engaging. “Do you guys like Bernie Sanders?” Koenig asked the crowd from underneath the giant spinning cartoon globe hanging over the stage.