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Ezra Koenig, of Vampire Weekend, performs at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis on Monday.

ANNA REED • anna.reed@startribune.com,

Vampire Weekend not ‘Modern’ enough

  • Article by: Chris Riemenschneider
  • Star Tribune
  • August 6, 2013 - 9:50 AM

One of these names on Vampire Weekend’s 2013 tour itinerary is not like the others: Coachella, Lollapalooza, Glastonbury, Outside Lands, Austin City Limits, Boston Calling, Fuji Rocks, Sasquatch, Squamish, Orpheum.

Teetering on the indie buzz-band diving board over richer mainstream waters, the breezy, summery New York pop-rockers seemed to be booked at nearly every rock festival big enough to have its own app this year. In the fest-challenged confines of Minneapolis, however, the quartet got stuck — or maybe unstuck — playing the Orpheum Theatre on Monday, the smallest and rare indoor venue on its summer schedule.

Obviously, Twin Cities fans weren’t complaining. Tickets were gone in minutes when they went on sale shortly after the release of VW’s widely acclaimed third album, “Modern Vampires of the City.”

“This is our first time playing a seated venue in Minneapolis, but nobody seems to be sitting down,” singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig noted/bragged halfway into the 90-minute set.

Even with a strong new record, the band still picked heavily from its previous two discs. The 2,600 fans didn’t seem to mind that, either — especially when it came to the show-opener “Cousins,” both highly danceable tracks off the group’s sophomore effort “Contra.”

Most high-energy of all were the insatiably infectious “Oxford Comma” and “Horchata,” the latter of which was spiked with extra-playful rhythms and a handclap-ready breakdown by drummer Chris Tomson. However, the band sounded stale and flat in a lot of the older tunes.

Koenig and his pals are well past their Columbia University years, and presumably remain smart, forward-thinking guys. So no wonder if they felt a little indifferent playing more juvenile tracks such as “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (a straight imitation of the Afropop that informs a lot of their music) and the obviously dated “Campus” and “Boston / Ladies of Cambridge” (the latter a punky B-side that always flunked).

Conversely, the concert turned as ornate and elegant as the hosting venue in the wedding-dance-worthy “Everlasting Arms,” one of several mellower, sophisticated-pop gems off the new record that showed a budding Brian Wilsonian side to Koenig (also: “Unbelievers” and “Obvious Bicycle”). The more experimental, electro-frazzled “Modern Vampires” cuts “Diane Young” and “Step” also showcased a boiling chemistry between Tomson and bassist Chris Baio. More than at past gigs, it wasn’t just Koenig’s show.

More new tunes would have been welcome — or more anything, really. Eighty minutes is twice what the band played for its local debut at the Triple Rock in 2008, but it felt too short Monday. Then again, bands at rock fests usually don’t play any more than that, so maybe Vampire Weekend just went by routine.

 

See VW’s set list, more photos and a review of Monday’s competing Jake Bugg concert at startribune.com/music.

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658

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