Vampire Weekend @ MTelus – 8th September 2019

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Vampire Weekend @ Mtelus, Montreal

Weirdly, the last time Vampire Weekend headlined a show in Montreal was September 8th – 2010 to be precise.  After 9 years away to the day, they finally make their long-awaited return.  The show sold out weeks in advance despite the hefty $72 ticket price, and by the time the 28-song, 2¼ hour show is done, everybody will agree that it was money well spent.

Understandably, the set draws heavily from their latest full-length Father Of The Bride, and to the untrained ear, it would be hard to tell the new songs from the classics based on crowd reaction; everything is received rapturously.  Bambina has fast become one of my favorite Vampire Weekend songs, one of the most perfectly constructed melodies you could hope to hear, though is beefed up from its recorded counterpart, much more bass-heavy and with a very embellished breakdown.  Stranger has a Steve Winwood-esque synth solo thrown in!  My Mistake is a notably more stripped-down proposition, turning the packed-out MTelus into a smoky jazz club, with frontman Ezra Koenig singing the verses almost as if he was narrating a story, such is the expressiveness of his face.  An extended 2021 towards the end of the set sees a flurry of cigarette lighters and cellphone torches illuminate the room, finishing up with Ezra dipping into the Peter Frampton book of voice tricks (later crediting local heroes Chromeo for the equipment tips!).  This Life and Harmony Hall, by contrast, follow the blueprint of the record note-perfectly.

The diversity seen in just the new songs is a microcosm of the diversity on display throughout the bands 4-record discography, which you really appreciate from a live show.  Set opener Holiday is a perfect summer song that gets the whole place bouncing right off the bat, an energy which continues from start to finish.  Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa sounds just as weird today as it did in 2008 (in a good way, obviously).  The deep Wurlitzer intro of Unbelievers rumbles around the room, and it comes across almost spooky as an orange spotlight emanates from behind Ezra as he passes judgement at the chorus with the words “We know the fire awaits unbelievers / All of the sinners the same / Girl, you and I will die unbelievers bound to the tracks of the train!”  The lights are scarlet red on Horchata, which confuses the senses in parallel with the laid-back calypso vibes, and even more so when it merges seamlessly in the thumping dub club anthem of SBTRKTs New Dorp New York (for which Ezra supplied the vocals).  An incendiary A-Punk sets the place off once more, as does Diane Young, in which the crowd moves with as much energy as the giant globe hanging above the stage, which spins furiously throughout the song as if it was a dynamo being charged by crowd energy.  Ezra praises the rowdy crowd throughout, most notably towards the end of the main set: “our last show was a hometown show in New York, you guys are just as loud!  Thanks for making us feel at home!

The encore is a thing to behold too.  After a spectacular reworked version of new song Sunflower, Ezra announces “we got a couple more songs, but before we get to ‘em, are there any requests?”  A perfect Campus is next up, before a girl in a beret requests A-Punk.  Ezra pauses and laughs: “This is highly unusual, we already played it… but OK, we’ll play it again!”  The crowd goes just as nuts the second time around.  A well-coordinated group of guys visiting from New Jersey requests their cover of I’m Going Down by Bruce Springsteen.  Ezra isn’t 100% sure about this one either: “Bruce Springsteen is a very important figure in New Jersey, do you like him in Montreal?”  After the crowd roars a resounding approval, the band obliges, and it sounds great.  Ezra looks in the direction of the balcony for the last request and is greeted with a chant for Hannah Hunt.  He’s impressed: “Wow, that was a collective request!”  The stage goes dark and various twinkly spotlights sparkle around the stage, suggesting the sound guy was ready for this one!  After Ezra praises the crowd one last time (“you guys were a hell of a crowd, best Sunday show ever I think!”), a frantic Worship You and an anthemic Ya Hey close out a fantastic evening.  An unfathomably wonderful return for Vampire Weekend.

Setlist

  • 1.       Holiday
  • 2.       White Sky
  • 3.       Bambina
  • 4.       Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
  • 5.       Unbelievers
  • 6.       How Long?
  • 7.       Bryn
  • 8.       Run
  • 9.       Rich Man
  • 10.   Step
  • 11.   My Mistake
  • 12.   Horchata
  • 13.   New Dorp. New York (SBTRKT cover)
  • 14.   This Life
  • 15.   Stranger
  • 16.   Harmony Hall
  • 17.   Diane Young
  • 18.   Cousins
  • 19.   A-Punk
  • 20.   2021 (Extended Version)
  • 21.   Jokerman (Bob Dylan cover)

Encore

  • 22.   Sunflower (Extended Version)
  • 23.   Campus
  • 24.   A-Punk
  • 25.   I’m Goin’ Down (Bruce Springsteen cover)
  • 26.   Hannah Hunt
  • 27.   Worship You
  • 28.   Ya Hey

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Ramy Elhoufy

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