A sold out Bank of America Pavilion hosted Boston’s final big gig of the summer on Sunday night. Indie Ivy League tour de force, Vampire Weekend, brought two albums worth of polished live material to the impressive venue and threw in some extra treats especially tailored for their Massachusetts audience.
From the top of the set the Columbia University alums, turned internationally renowned hit makers, made their intentions clear. Kicking things off with the exuberant "Holiday" (the latest single from the number one album, "Contra"), allowed the crowd to begin to put the fairly brisk temperature of the waterfront to the back of their minds. "Its still summer, you know," front man, Ezra Koenig, reminded the audience after the afro-beat ridden, Caped-inspired number, "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa."
Despite possibly having to compete with a lack of weather more befitting of the summery hits of their first LP, a mid-September show in Boston is in many ways the ideal setting for these collegiate favorites. With a fresh crop of boat shoe-wearing undergrads once again occupying dormitories all over the city, there seems no better way to kick off the semester than with a live show from the band that have defined the college sound since their breakthrough in 2006. Though Vampire Weekend themselves may have moved away from the sound of the quad with their most recent material, they are still able to appreciate the importance of their freshman fans. Before drummer Christopher Tomson began to drop his foot on the quick, muffled bass intro of "Campus" (a song of unrequited love for a professor of Romantic lit, from the self-titled first album), Koenig dedicated the song to "all the students" and the ensuing cheer made clear just what a big percentage of the crowd would be attending classes the following day.
While the sing-a-long moments of tracks like "M79" and "One (Blake’s Got a New Face)" from their first album pleased the crowd on a mass scale, the newer material provided a showcase of the band’s musical skill and the clever ways in which they have evolved over two full-length releases. Koenig’s use of auto-tune on "California English" worked better live than expected, thanks to the lovely, crisp sound that venue provides; bassist Chris Baio showed off his musical prowess on "Taxi Cab" by switching to the cello, and the samples and beats created by Rostam Batmanglij (keys) and Christopher Tomson on "Diplomat’s Son," somewhat miraculously, inspired much of the preppy crowd to attempt a hip-hop style two-step.
Whether in attendance to help sing the hits of the first album or appreciate the intricacies of the second, there were moments on Sunday at which Vampire Weekend managed to get everyone’s feet moving and mouths grinning. A surprising cover of Bruce Springsteen’s "I’m Going Down" may have been performed on the festival circuit this summer, but nonetheless, was so well accompanied by the breeze of the near by water that it felt like a gift to the Bean Town audience. Whether or not covering The Boss is something Vampire Weekend has been doing all over the world this summer, during the encore they provided an explicit ode to Boston. "You can’t play this song in Cincinnati" Koenig explained before leaping into the little known, cult EP track, "Boston (Ladies of Cambridge)." The song galvanized the crowd better than any other of the night and, as if they needed it, won them even more respect amongst their Boston based fans.