Words: Aaron Weaver / Photos: Brian Bruemmer, Rubatophoto.com
PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center
June 15th, 2019
Much has changed for Vampire Weekend since they last played Cincinnati in 2008; critical acclaim, commercial success, a best album Grammy, a line up which has both contracted with the departure of founding member Rostam Batmanglij and expanded with the addition of new touring members.
There is also a new sound. Through the first three albums Vampire Weekend – frontman Ezra Koenig, drummer Chris Tomson, bassist Chris Baio, and the aforementioned Batmanglij on guitar and as producer – were known for fusing world music and punk rock into indie pop gold. The new album â€˜Father of the Brideâ€™, for which this tour supports, is a seachange from that sound. FOTB brings the world back home to America, channeling an eclectic mix of Americana: country, folk, soul, and rock & roll. Yet they still sound like Vampire Weekend. The album is not a diversion from what you expect from Vampire Weekend, it is an evolution.
The crowd quickly filled in during the stage change from opener to the headliner. It was a humid night and as the sold out PNC Pavilion reached itâ€™s 4100 person capacity the temperature rise was palpable. While mostly Millennials, the fans were surprisingly multi-generational; there were parents who brought their children, teenagers that brought their parents, and a few hipster grandpas carousing at the concert as well. Craft beer, boxed wine, and bottled water seemed the drinks of choice, The vibe was friendly and easygoing and everyone seemed to be having a good time.
From the moment the band took the stage the sold out audience came to their feet, standing and dancing as Vampire Weekend gave them what they wanted – a new song heavy set list that still paid homage to the songs that made it into heavy rotation from past albums. As different as the new music seems when listening to the album, it was interesting to hear how seamlessly it mixed into the setlist with music from earlier albums – it was a cohesive musical experience.
The core band was joined by new touring members Brian Robert Jones (guitar), Greta Morgan (guitar, keyboards), Garrett Ray (percussion, drums), and Will Canzoneri (keyboards). The stage was filled with two drum sets, two keyboard setups, three guitars, and a bass. A giant rotating inflatable version of the globe from the cover of FOTB was the main backdrop of the stage. It shot an array of light effects out from around it and together with a fog machine created an atmospheric visual throughout the show. Koenig always felt the central point of the group, his magnetic personality creates an intimacy with the audience that draws their fans in. Of the new members of the band, Brian Robert Jones stood out both musically and for the energy he brought. His guitar solos were a highlight of the show. The band squeezed in 28 songs with Sunflower, Stranger, and Obvious Bicycle turned into extended jams with the latter of those having a cover of Son of a Preacher Man serve as an interlude. The encore was closed by fan requests. If you are a fan of Vampire Weekend, I highly recommend catching this tour. You won’t be disappointed. They seem to be having the time of their lives and want to share the experience with you.
Chicano Batman opened the show and played an entertaining and enjoyable set before a less than full room. They didnâ€™t seem to have a presence big enough for a venue this size but they will – soon. Donâ€™t come late. Youâ€™ll be missing out.