Vampire Weekend RBC Echo Beach, Toronto ON, June 6
Published Jun 06, 2019With the current incarnation of Vampire Weekend, over-indulgence is part of the fun. Given that their new album, Father of the Bride, is an 18-song stylistic roller coaster, it shouldn't be a surprise that their live show stretched well past the two-hour mark and featured sprawling arrangements from a seven-piece band.
The night almost didn't happen, mind you. The weather in Toronto had been rainy all day, and Vampire Weekend were apparently warned that the show might be cancelled due a risk of a lightning storm. And although the downpour thankfully held off, this was still a cold and drizzly night — hardly what Vampy Weeks would have hoped for their tour kickoff.
With a giant globe hanging at the back of the stage, the group opened with "Harmony Hall," which featured an extended outro vamp on the song's hypnotic, cyclical guitar figure. This set the tone for a performance that was full of intricate guitar harmonies and shredding from live member Brian Jones. He and frontman Ezra Koenig showed off some nimble fretwork on the intro to "White Sky," and they indulged their jam band influences on an epic-length rendition of "Sunflower."
These jams were tons of fun, but the set started to lag during some of the mid-tempo numbers. "Unbearably White" and "How Long?" might have been mellow and vibey on a nice summer night, but here in the rain, they sucked the life out of the crowd. Even the band members themselves seemed a little subdued (with the occasional exception of shimmying bassist Chris Baio), and Koenig rarely spoke other than to thank the crowd for braving the rain.
A funkified rendition of Paul Simon's "Late in the Evening" was pleasant enough, but the cover choice was a little too on-the-nose considering how many times Vampire Weekend have been compared to Graceland over the years.
Koenig and company hit their stride during a run of late-set bangers: "Diane Young," "Cousins," "A-Punk," "Oxford Comma" and "One (Blake's Got a New Face)" brought the shivering crowd out of its shell and inspired the biggest sing-alongs of the night.
But then the main part of the set ended with "Jerusalem, New York, Berlin" — a lovely ballad that unfortunately brought the energy way down.
The pacing issues continued into the encore: the reveal of some gaudily coloured banners couldn't save "Big Blue" from being a bit dreary, and then when Koenig attempted to solicit requests from the audience, a fan named Liam asked for "A-Punk," which they had already played. After some hemming and hawing, the band relented and played the song again.
Thankfully, the set ended on another high, as fans batted around giant inflatable globes during a blissful version of "Ya Hey" — which was gorgeous, even though the audience had thinned out significantly by that point.
It's not fair to blame a band for the weather, but on a night that was chilly to begin with, Vampire Weekend's hit-or-miss performance never quite got Toronto warmed up.