Vampire Weekend jams out Father of the Bride at The Mann Center
Vampire Weekend‘s The Father of the Bride Tour hit The Mann last Wendnesday, and if you’d been listening from the outside, you probably wouldn’t have assumed that this was a show to promote their newest album. It’s been six years since they’ve played Philly, back on The Mann’s smaller Skyline Stage while touring for their moody Modern Vampires of the City album. They accepted our incredibly warm welcome back with a generous two hour set.
Before we get to Ezra Koenig and the gang, I have to shout out the tour’s opener, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. This guy is twenty years old and shreds. How lucky is he that he can tour with Vampire Weekend, or how lucky are they that he gets to warm up the crowd? A blues rock prodigy, Ingram hails from Clarksdale, Mississippi, in the heart of the Delta that has bred so many other incredible artists before him. He has old soul energy in his deep, twangy vocals, but can instantly amp up the energy with an incredible heavy and intricate guitar solo.
When Vampire Weekend took the stage around 8:45, they immediately jumped into a chills-worthy “Sympathy,” off FOTB.It was an intense opening number, with a deep arpeggiated bass line and heavy Afro Cuban-inspired drums. I’ll admit: I peeked at other setlists, and most of them started with “Flower Moon,” so this was a very pleasant surprise. This song, to me, has the most depth on the new album, and I probably could have listened to them play it five times.
The setlist overall was very hit-heavy, as expected. “Holiday,” “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” “This Life,” “Horchata,” “Step,” “Harmony Hall,” “A-Punk,” and “Cousins,” are just a few examples. They gave the crowd what they wanted. Of the new album, there were a couple deeper cuts. “Bambina” and “Stranger” were included, aside from the singles.
With each season of Vampire Weekend’s releases, there are notable changes to the band’s sound. With their early work, Vampire Weekend and Contra respectively, the vibe is jumpy, fun, falsetto-heavy, and a little shouty. Their sound is very much their own. With Modern Vampires of the City, they decided to try and dial things back and they transitioned into the epitome of a moody indie band, though some tracks like “Worship You” and “Everlasting Arms” were still reminiscent of the old stuff. With Father of the Bride, it seems like they’re trying for the best of both phases. Many of the news songs are really beautiful, like “Harmony Hall” and any of the tracks HAIM is featured on. The album is intricate in all the right places. But then songs like “Sympathy” are wild outliers.
It’s also clear that Koenig’s been practicing his jam band techniques, or “sipping on Jerry Juice,” as I overheard, (a Grateful Dead reference, hello) because most of the songs were extended and transitioned seamlessly into covers. It was a little on the nose, but they transitioned from “Unbearably White” into Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia.” But you know the crowd ate it up, of course. I’m guilty. “Step” faded nicely into “Horchata,” which then morphed into SBTRKT’s “New Dorp. New York.” The band was tight — particularly new guitarists Brian Robert Jones and Greta Morgan — as they navigated all of these changes and followed Koenig’s lead on a lot of what must have been improvised solos and transitional interludes.
I was truly shocked at how good Koenig’s voice sounded. This was my first time seeing Vampire Weekend live, and I swear, this guy does not age. He sounded incredibly tight and navigated the falsetto and quick lyrics perfectly. What a presence he has. And to keep that up for over two hours, without faltering over any of the words in “Worship You,” I’m stunned.
Koenig has also made taking requests a habit on this tour, considering it’s been more than half a decade since fans have been able to hear their favorite songs live. “How Long?,” “Walcott,” “Oxford Comma,” were requests, and “Worship You,” and “Ya Hey” rounded out the encore so nicely. What a track to end on, truly. I had chills for the entire thing. It’s anthemic and beautiful and subtly slows the night down so you don’t even realize it’s the end. Vampire Weekend, please don’t wait six more years to come back if you’re going to deliver a show like this.