Sunday, April 14, 2013 | 4:21 p.m.
By Jack Houston
If being a pit stop on the way to Coachella means getting to host buzzworthy bands on back-to-back nights, count Las Vegas in.
Vampire Weekend’s Friday night show at Boulevard Pool in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was the venue’s third concert by a Coachella-bound act in as many nights, and it’s not a stretch to imagine thousands of festivalgoers bopping along to the band’s Afrobeat-inspired indie pop in the 90-degree heat.
The New York-based group, who met at Columbia University more than a decade ago, hasn’t graduated much from the “Graceland”-in-the-garage template that made them darlings of the blogosphere in 2007, but, then again, there aren’t many bands making their guitar riffs sound like kalimbas or adapting a Congolese dance beat into a song about collegiate sex.
Technically, there was nothing wrong with Vampire Weekend’s 16-song, 90-minute set. The four-piece of Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson and Chris Baio was locked in all night, beginning with an opening sprint through the supercharged “Cousins” from 2010’s “Contra.”
But there was nothing terribly exciting about it, either.
If you were a newcomer to the Vampire Weekend live experience, there was a certain novelty in seeing that, yes, they can navigate the complicated rhythms of “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and the Cape Cod-referencing closer “Walcott.” But anyone who thought the band might add a little extra oomph to these now 6-year-old songs would be mistaken.
Aside from a three-sentence exposition following “White Sky,” one which accurately acknowledged what a beautiful night it was, frontman Koenig let his cheeky, Ivy League-level lyrics do the talking. Their forthcoming album, which has been forthcoming since Koenig alluded to working on a “ton” of new material a whole year ago, was represented by two as-yet unreleased tracks, plus, both “sides” of their current single “Diane Young.”
Like Tegan and Sara, who performed on the same Boulevard Pool stage two days earlier, Vampire Weekend has taken a more electronic approach with their most recent work. But none of the songs ever seemed too out of place whenever they popped up in the set. Which was the problem.
Whereas “Closer” introduced Tegan and Sara to a whole new fan base, it’s unlikely any of the quartet of new songs will move the needle for Vampire Weekend.
So where does a band like Vampire Weekend go from here? Only the biggest music festival in the country, that’s where. They play Indio, Calif., today and again the following Sunday.
Friday night’s setlist: “Cousins,” “White Sky,” “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” “Diane Young,” “Step,” “Holiday,” “Unbelievers,” “A-Punk,” “Ya Hey,” “Campus,” “Oxford Comma” and “Giving Up the Gun.” Encore: “Diplomat’s Son,” “One (Blake’s Got a New Face),” “Mansard Roof” and “Walcott.”
Jack Houston, editor of Las Vegas Magazine, Las Vegas Life and Vegas2Go, is not a vampire. As far as we know.