Although they’re more Free Town than Cape Town, Vampire Weekend still stand out in indie rock circles for incorporating elements of African pop into their music. It’s fair to expect some of that vibrancy would reflect in their live performances.
So the band entered to House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ and proceeded to do just that, seeming to be genuinely delighted to be there without having to produce the mandatory ‘Scottish crowds are the greatest’ shtick to support the idea. They began by powering through ‘White Sky’ and ‘Holiday’ from new album Contra, before invoking a joyous venue-wide sing-along to ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’.
Anyone who had listened to vocalist Ezra Koenig’s eye-wateringly high falsetto on Contra will have been surprised to hear him reproduce those notes flawlessly but then much of the band’s performance was built on note-perfect re-enactment of studio versions.
In conversation with the crowd, Koenig, with his Fred Savage good looks, lurched from Arthur Miller to Henry Winkler, sounding at times like he’d be equally comfortable driving a taxi around the streets of New York. He tried to get the crowd involved as much as possible, encouraging them to sing and dance along and if they didn’t know the words to yelp excitedly at agreed intervals.
Largely because of their apparent championing of unfashionable styles (who wants Paul Simon on a list of influences?) it’s easy to forget that Vampire Weekend still possess a laudable talent for masterful pop song craft, best displayed when Chris Baio adopts the double bass for a stunning performance of ‘Taxi Cab’.
With their recorded output running just over an hour, this was never going to be a long show but fans could count on one hand the number of omissions in the set list. It’s hard to argue with that.
It was Valentine’s Day, so the encore began with a heartbreakingly short rendition of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’. Penultimate song ‘Mansard Roof’ was introduced by Koenig stating that “in a city like Edinburgh, you gotta love a song about architecture”. Ice cool.