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Vampire Weekend, Solange, Sky Ferreira. At Barclay Center, Friday, September 20th, 2013

Vampire Weekend attempt to heat up Barclay Center

On the second night of their 2013 world tour in support of the brilliant, shifting and awfully brainy Modern Vampires of the City Vampire Weekend have rejiggered the setlist  and the effect is dynamite. Instead of opening with “Diane Young”, they give the fans at a just about sold out Barclay Center “Cousins” followed by “White Sky” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”, three really smart choices from earlier in their career, and then they hit you with the very popular first single off the new album  “Diane Young” a 1950sish rockabilly rave up which reaches a zenith the rest of the show didn’t match as Ezra went from a sexy Presley impression to a full speed ahead last verse.

The problem isn’t entirely the bands fault. BUT, if you are gonna have two musicians, even two as interesting as Sky Ferreira and Solange Knowles, don’t start the night at 8pm, start it at 730pm. By the time Vampire Weekend came on stage I’d have been falling asleep though, God knows why, the auditorium was freezing cold and didn’t warm up. Bizarre stuff, I have no idea what Barclay were freezing us for. I felt like Hans Solo in The Empire Strikes Back .

The cold kept me awake and Solange Knowles kept me awake. I’ve gone from being a fan to indifferent to a fan to indifferent the latest indifference based upon her difficult second album, True. So in her brother-in-law’s former digs for the first time (unless she was part of Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter concert there), I wanted to see her but wasn’t expecting a miracle. I got a miracle. She went back as far as “T.O.N.Y.” all the way to her just missed it by that much (I’m telling you, the sample was a bad idea) “Losing You” and towards the end, she went from “Losing You” to Dirty Projector’s “Stillness Is The Move”. The entire evening didn’t improve on those two songs  Solange using her falsetto to devastating effect and she put her vocals on a loop and was her own back up singer. And her dancing? Hell man that woman can dance, it is a glorious thing to watch her use up the stage with the smoothest moves, a modified twist. It was a first rate set. I’ve had tickets to see Solange at small clubs twice and kinda blew em off. That has now ended.

Did I mention Sky? She was in the wrong venue and her stage patter is awful. Is she a valley girl.? A giggling mess “Ok? Alright? hehehehe”… was she fucked up? When Sky sang she was OK, especially a new song “Heavy Metal Heart” and closer “Everything Is Embarrassing”. If Ferriera can stop getting arrested for possession she might be big time. I bet she improves a huge amount in a club like Webster Hall.

So  I was freezing and exhausted, but Vampire Weekend kept me for two more songs “Unbelievers” -with its Buddy Holly lick a good match for “Diane Young” and the joyful rush of “Step”. But athe set goes into a mid set lull with minor Modern tracks taking up room, especially bad a five song run from “California English” to “Don’t Lie”  including “Ya Hey” which should have killed.

The stage performance doesn’t much help, if you get the  chance to take your eyes off Ezra Koenig  all in white except for a black belt (I bet Whit Stillman would have a thing or two to say about that) the guy to watch is bassist Chris Baoi, who moves very well, especially to “Step” where he does double steps to the beat.

Rostam Batmanglij, who with the new album has taken on co-writer credits away from the rhythm section, should be a center of attention but isn’t because he is so damn busy programming sounds. Only towards the end does it let loose with some wild guitar playing.

As for Ezra, he  is an odd lead singer, he is like your fave camp counselor, an energetic but overly friendly leader of children. Ezra, indeed Vampire Weekend as a whole, have no urge to put their music into any real context at all. The set is pretty but flat and a cover of Blur’s “Song 2”, coming out of nowhere, is both perfect and perfectly irrelevant. I’ve seen the band several times, most recently in January of 2010 and you can read my review here, but here is a quote: “Ezra is in a sincerely excellent mood and the band were completely into it. Near the end Ezra says “This is the loudest we’ve ever played” and though they only played for an hour and twenty five minutes he also says “This is the longest we’ve ever played.” Fourteen months after their boring and just plain bad set at Terminal 5, Vampire Weekend have completely vindicated themselves

Friday night was a professional and pleasant 90 minutes by a band who can’t figure quite how to merge their concepts of God and men into a full bloodied rock show.

Sky Ferreira – C+

Solange – B+

Vampire Weekend B

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