Vampire Weekend’s London return suggests the best is yet to come

Welcome back, boys.

It’s been six years since Vampire Weekend last played in London – with an arena show at The O2 cementing their status as one of the biggest bands in the world. Their return takes place in more humble surroundings. For the first of three comeback shows in the capital they’ve opted for the intimate setting of Hackney’s EartH – matching the cosy familiarity as the two hour set that follows from the New Yorkers.

After opening with the bounce new single ‘Harmony Hall’, frontman Ezra Koenig immediately follows with the skittered guitars of old summer favourite ‘Holiday’.  The balance set the tone of the evening. While new album ‘Father of The Bride’ is on the horizon, tonight is more of a chance for them to get rid of ring rust – and there’s no better way to do so than reacquainting fans with nearly every old favourite across two hours.

Ezra Koenig and Chris Baio of Vampire Weekend perform on stage at EartH Hackney on March 21, 2019 in London, England

But when the new songs do emerge, they’re performed with the same animated fervour those staple indie dancefloor hits. Take the sunny pop of  ‘Sunflower’, which ends with an unexpected solo from new guitarist Brian Robert Jones. Led Zep they ain’t, but it brings an unexpected edge to the usually mild-mannered New Yorkers.

It’s a similar story for bassist Chris Baio – who comes complete with a newly acquired pair of snake-hips as he prowls the stage throughout the show.

Not every new number lands, however. Two different versions of ‘2021’ make for a good excuse to visit the bar for many, although it’s hard not to enjoy the endearing geekery of Koenig’s vocoder. It’s a small trough on otherwise resplendent terrain.

As a finale we’re treated to the first airing of ‘Big Blue’ before Koenig welcomes requests from fans, before they run through ‘Everlasting Arms’ and cult favourite ‘M79’. The heavy lean towards the fan friendly moments act as a celebration of their greatness and reminder of the sheer joy they can deliver, but the new material suggests they may only now be approaching the peak of their powers. Beg, steal or borrow to see Vampire Weekend in 2019.

Vampire Weekend setlist was:

Harmony Hall
Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
White Sky
2021 (album version)
2021 (piano version)
New Dorp New York (SBTRKT cover)
Hannah Hunt
Diane Young
Oxford Comma

Big Blue
Finger Back
Everlasting Arms
Worship You
Ya Hey