Wednesday was the unofficial start to summer as New York lovelies Vampire Weekend graced Milwaukee with their presence at BMO Harris Pavilion on the Summerfest grounds. Luckily, the rainy weather held up and instead traded for a more chilly night on the water. That was fine as lead singer Ezra Koenig and his gang warmed the crowd up with their “beach-y” beats. It was the first event at the new outdoor venue outside of Summerfest dates and it proved to be a success.
Indie pop duo Cults opened the show while the sun was slowly setting over the lake. Also from New York, Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion, along with their touring band, delivered somber vibes with their laid-back collection of songs. Fortunately, they did what every opener is supposed to do: Warm up the crowd before the headlining band. The set was not much to write home about, aside from their only well-known song “Go Outside”,a song that’s featured on a cell phone commercial, and was played towards the end of their short but sweet set.
After some much needed setup, it was time for Vampire Weekend to take the stage. And that they did, sauntering on to the rap song “Trophies” by Drake. The band did not hesitate at all going straight into “Diane Young” and immediately the black backdrop fell to reveal Roman columns and an ornate mirror in the middle of the stage. During the upbeat number “Unbelievers,” the white curtain fell to reveal a vivid flower mural. The twenty-something song set featured tunes off of their array of albums including Modern Vampires of the City, Contra, and their self-titled album.
Not a lot of words were to be said between songs by band members, which made for a long set. The little that was said, however, was lasting, as Koenig introduced “A-Punk” by saying, “If you’re too cold, you can warm up to this one, easy.” The guitarist, keyboardist and backing vocalist Rostam Batmanglij had a few words to say himself as he invited the crowd to join in on the “whoa-oh’s” in “Horchata.”
The more mellow-like selections were mostly off of their newest record, Modern Vampires of the City, and were sprinkled throughout the lower half of the set amidst buoyant numbers like “Cousins”, “A-Punk”, and “Campus.” Along with showmanship, light cues provided some life to the set with a shadowy silhouette of Koenig during “Ya Hey” and an erratic light show for “Giving Up the Gun.” The night was rounded off with the smooth number “Obvious Bicycle,” but they did not leave on that note. The slow encore “Hannah Hunt” ushered in their final “Walcott,” which offered an acceptable goodbye with the lyrics, “Don’t you wanna get out of Cape Cod, out of Cape Cod tonight?” and a peppy beat.
It was good to have the boys of Vampire Weekend back in Milwaukee, which was long-awaited after not stopping on tour here over four years. However, Koenig reassured the crowd that they had been coming here for awhile on past tours and this show was by far the best. Hopefully they’ll be back in Milwaukee sooner rather than later and with new material to astound us.