Gig review: Vampire Weekend @ Manchester Phones4u Arena

By David Aspinall

Indie rockers Vampire Weekend brought the curtain down on their UK tour with a return to where it all began for them on this side of the Atlantic.

In 2007 the New York four-piece played their first UK gig in Manchester and last night they were back again, but this time in the bigger stage of the Phones4u Arena on the back of their outstandingly-successful third studio album.

Modern Vampires of the City peaked in the UK at number three on the album charts and number one on the US Billboard charts.

Many questions had been asked ahead of their UK tour as to whether their act would transfer well from smaller venues to the giant arenas that they’d set their sights on.

 Unfortunately, the venue choice was undoubtedly a huge misfire – not even the floor standing area was full and curtains were down on vast areas of seating – but the band seemed to make it their mission to prove otherwise.

It appears that fears over their ability to live up to the arena spectacle led to some over compensations. During a couple of songs lead singer Ezra Koenig’s vocals were drowned out by guitars and there was definitely overkill in the use of strobe lights.

When used correctly on occasion, the lighting perfectly complemented the high-tempo, borderline hectic sound of some of their biggest hits, however barring these moments it was an epileptic nightmare, which may have led to some of the early departures.

They were aptly supported by Noah and the Whale, who played a six track set which included their two most successful singles L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N and Five Years Time and a small sprinkle of Bob Dylan.

As the Sunday evening crowd was now suitably warmed up and, after the 30-minute long set change increasingly anxious and itching to see the headline act, Koenig & co came on stage, somewhat inexplicably, to Drake’s Worst Behaviour.

Unsurprisingly they dived head first into their most recent album with Diane Young, Modern Vampire’s protagonist single.

From here, the first half of the set leant heavily on their third album, with only a few sparse appearances from anything before it – namely Vampire Weekend and Contra.

Three songs in and there was a set change, as the original neo-gothic plain white backdrop tumbled to the floor and revealed a vibrant background of vivid pink flowers.

Unbelievers brought an energetic response from the crowd with limbs flailing indiscriminately followed closely by Horchata, which was religiously recited by the Vampire faithful.

Contra’s lead single Cousins marked the second half of the set and a return predominantly to their freshman and sophomore records.

A-Punk, the single that really announced their arrival in 2007, resulted in an explosion of ecstasy from the crowd and even a Tom Jones-esque throwing of clothes on stage.

The crowd were further spurred on by bass player Chris Baio’s elastic dancing, which never tired throughout the night.

Their set ended on Obvious Bicycle, the opening ballad from the third album, and Koenig’s haunting voice pierced the admittedly thing atmosphere, bringing with it the obligatory lighters in the air.

After thanking the fans from this ‘legendary city’, a three-song encore was coaxed from the band consisting of Hannah Hunt and cult favourites One and Walcott, which sent their loyal fans out into the wintery Manchester cold with a summery spring in their step.

Picture courtesy of Phones4U, with thanks.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles