Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Jan 19th 2010 12:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
"This is a real physical and emotional test," singer and guitarist Ezra Koenig said after announcing the milestone, his face wide with the half-cocky, half-serious, ultimately good-natured smile that so exemplifies his band's music.
If it was indeed a test, Vampire Weekend easily passed. Now members of the two-album club, the four Columbia University grads mixed old favorites with selections from their just-released sophomore effort, 'Contra,' inspiring plenty of audience participation along the way.
Fans echoed Koenig's chorus on '(One) Blake's Got a New Face' and did their best to dance during the cryptic ska gem 'A-Punk,' answering the singer's call for movement, assigned seating notwithstanding.
"The thing about seats is you have to be a little more creative," he said, pointing out the tradeoff that comes with playing such an old, ornate theater.
During the final verse of 'A-Punk,' some concertgoers cheered the line that mentions Washington Heights, the far-flung Manhattan neighborhood in which the United Palace Theater is located. Their geographical savvy confirmed something Koenig had said earlier about not having to preface each song with an explanation of what local landmarks it references.
"You guys already know," Koenig said, introducing what he called "a little bit of a Manhattan song," the bobbing chamber-pop number 'M79,' named for the cross-town bus that cuts through the heart of Central Park.
'M79' was one of several tunes that featured a string quartet, and its presence lent a degree of starchy sophistication to Vampire Weekend's spring-wound Afro-pop rhythms and chord changes.
Those African textures felt especially pronounced on the 'Contra' songs, even if 'Holiday' is built more on Jamaica ska and 'California English' features Jay-Z's least favorite space-age vocal effect, Auto-Tune.
As Koenig and company bounced through these and other Third World-gone-indie-rock jams, the musicians carried themselves like debonair adventurers, conquering heroes back home after strange and exotic travels. They've been accused of sucking the life out of African music, but they give at least as much as they take. They're vampires in name only.