Live Review

Vampire Weekend, Mahalia Jackson Theater, New Orleans

This is the kind of music that amplifies feelings, bringing emotion into sharp relief.

Sitting down in a theater is a radically different experience than standing amongst your compatriots, shoulder to shoulder. The space that exists between the chairs, the calm that translates when you are sitting and listening to music turns a show into a completely different animal. That’s the experience at the gorgeous Mahalia Jackson Theater.

The relationship of a performer to the energy of the audience is interesting in this set up. In most show settings the band appears to feed off the audience, generating energy and getting it back. For most people that’s part of what makes an amazing show. When the structure around you is not conducive to that, that’s where it gets interesting. You have to be a truly phenomenal musician to pull it off or be able to deliver exactly what your audience wants. These things are accomplished here by both Beach House and Vampire Weekend. The overall result of a show of theirs, at a venue like this one, generates comparisons to the opera scene in the 5th Element. A popera if you’ll allow.

Beach House are incredible musicians. From the subtle and complex guitar of Alex Scally to the ethereal vocals of Victoria Legrand, they really know how to play and generate an atmosphere of a dreamlike reality. The thing that is pretty amazing about this experience is that when a band plays so starkly, all the flaws come through. In this case, Beach House is pretty much flawless. The venue is perfectly suited to them; they get to play very well with a little banter thrown in to a chilled out, relaxed audience. There is something so romantic about their music; they create the perfect atmosphere for a date, a wonderful if heady rather than visceral experience that pulls at the heartstrings. This is the kind of music that amplifies feelings, bringing emotion into sharp relief. All this is not to say that the audience is laconic, they are anything but that, thoroughly excited and obviously in love with Beach House nearly as much as Vampire Weekend.

This totally chilled out vibe ends the minute Vampire Weekend bounce out onto stage. The audience leap to their feet in what soon becomes a fever pitch. In this show Vampire Weekend prove themselves to be the consummate indie pop band. They are incredibly entertaining, incredibly compelling, but not hugely complex. In some ways they are nearly the opposite of their own openers. Unlike a pop band like The Killers whose live shows are barely a variation from their album, Vampire Weekend takes control over their own music. They provide an accomplished and polished performance, a truly healthy mix of old and new songs. Probably one of the only overplayed acts who aren’t apparently bored by their major hits.

The real star of the show however is Vampire Weekend’s lighting designer. From dancing chandeliers to projections to an unbelievable combination of colored lights, the designer creates the perfect atmosphere; a promise of a different world. A world that mimics maybe the Wes Anderson lens or at least a world that is less harsh, where you bounce around the Columbia campus in early fall. Vampire Weekend personifies this; they are living the dream of almost every 20something. They play to sold-out venues of screaming and adoring fans.

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