I once read (and it was on the internet, so it must be true) that the boys from Vampire Weekend come from a part of New York that was heavily impacted by the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Although it did not impact their families directly, a significant number of kids in their schools lost parents and relatives. With enough pain and darkness already around them, their music had been a conscious decision to bring some positivity and enjoyment back into the world around them.
To be honest I am not sure how true the story is, but I always think about it when I am listening to Vampire Weekend and I think it is a nice little reminder than sometimes we (or at least I) take music a little too seriously. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a good pop song just for the sake of it and being entertained by a fun, and very talented band.
And that is what I came into this show at the Heineken Music Hall both expecting, and looking forward to.
The night started in superb fashion, with support band Puggy blowing our minds. Having seen a couple of really good support bands in the past few shows, these guys took it to a whole new level. Channeling a sound somewhere between Muse and Phoenix, they filled a very big space with some catchy and well written songs. The lighting was excellent (given their support slot) and when their lead singer came to the front of the stage and got the whole crowd involved in a sing-along, I knew this was a band that has to be going somewhere.
The strongest endorsement I can probably give them is that all 5 of us who were at the show together have already bought tickets to their January show at Paradiso. If you are not in Amsterdam, keep your eye (or ear) out for these guys – and if you are in Amsterdam, do yourself a favor and get down there on January 16. For 10 euro you cannot go wrong!
Not to take anything away from their set or the very strong response they got from the crowd, it should probably be pointed out that by this stage the HMH was only half full, at best. The top tier of seats had not been opened and despite it being quite tight around the stage, once you backed out of that 20 or 30 meter space, it was very easy to move around.
While that makes it great to get to the bar, it was the first worrying sign that things might not be the same as past VW experiences. I had seen them play to a sold out Paradiso crowd in early 2010 and the place had gone nuts to almost every song, and I had heard about similar experiences last time they were here and played a sold out HMH.
That being said, the houselights faded and the pumping bass of Drake’s ‘Worst Behavior’ had the crowd cheering. After a few seconds the band took the stage to the rapping words of “Mufucka never loved us, Fucka never loved us. You ain't know, now you know now. Still at it, scrub J's with a toothbrush. Shit, niggas still playin' my old shit. But your shit is like the police asking us questions. Nigga we don't know shit. Flexin', nigga I'm just flexin'. Nigga never loved us.”
Needless to say it was just brilliant.
Over the next couple of hours the band cranked out about 20 songs, with a nice mix from all 3 albums. The crowd favorites still seemed to be the big songs off their debut album, with Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, A-Punk and Oxford Comma all getting great reactions. They even threw in a version of Boston (Ladies of Cambridge), from their really early days before they were signed.
The songs from the new album, Modern Vampires of the City, sounded good but didn’t seem to have the crowd going as crazy as what we had seen in the past. The band seems to have been on tour almost the entire year, starting with the Big Day Out festivals in Australia in January and playing about 90 shows in between. Maybe this was catching up with them, as they didn’t seem to have the same energy as when I had seen them in Paradiso a few years ago.
Keyboardist, Rostam Batmanglij, seemed to be the most effected, really looking like he didn’t want to be there for some parts of the show. As with many shows in Amsterdam, there is always that little thought in the back of your mind wondering if a bands performance is being impacted by some of the ‘legal’ pastimes that are available here. But let’s just give them the benefit of the doubt and assume we caught them at the end of a long tour schedule.
The 3 song encore ended with Walcott and although it didn’t include the 10 minute jam session they included to end the show in 2010, it was still a strong end and again had the crowd up and dancing. In complete contrast the opening of the show, they left the stage to Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York and as the houselights came back on, numerous patrons could be seen singing along, arm in arm and with a few cabaret style swinging legs.
Needless to say our group was one of these and again, it was just brilliant.
So while it might not have been quite as fun as I was hoping for, it was still a great night out and we managed to find a new band to explore. Not a bad effort for a Tuesday evening!
Special thanks for HMH for a few of the photos!