Friday, May 3, 2019

Vampire Weekend at Ulster Performing Arts Center 5/2/19 (Concert Review)

By Mark Ventrice

For the first time in 5 years, Vampire Weekend have returned to New York for an intimate tour that left me with some amazing memories…..and a vinyl record that I have no way to play.
To preface that, Vampire Weekend announced a tour that made only three stops, their New York State Tour, one in Buffalo, one in Kingston and one in New York City. This tour is in support of their new album Father of The Bride that releases May 3rd.
The first thing I noticed entering the venue was just how nice it was. Ulster Performing Arts Center, or UPAC, was a restoration of a classic theater that was built there in the 1920’s and looks beautiful. The theater is probably the second nicest place I have seen a concert, with the first being the Palace Theater in Albany, NY. While waiting in the merch line to get my regular concert t-shirt, I noticed that they had signed vinyl records and I had to get one of those. I then grabbed a drink from the bar, was told I couldn’t bring it in to my seat, so I had my drink and sulked in the atrium. Anyways, less about me and more about the show.
Vampire Weekend put on an amazing show that started a little after 8:30 and didn’t get over until nearly 11. They opened with the big single off their new album, “Harmony Hall” to a large cheer from the crowd. They followed that up with a few older hits including “Unbelievers”, and then a handful of new songs from their upcoming album. One that stuck out the most was “Sunflower” which they turned into a vessel for a crazy jam session that lasted at least three minutes. They did that with a couple other songs at different points during the set as well.
One of the more interesting things they did was during “2021”, Ezra Koenig, the band’s frontman, had a voice synthesizer attached to his microphone and he sang the last couple lines of the song through that creating an interesting sound that the crowd seemed to enjoy.
Being such a small venue, there were two things I immediately noticed. The first one was the crowd was packed and almost everyone there seemed to be diehard fans, so the crowd’s reaction to things was pretty universal. Another thing was a fear I had with the way that the venue was set up. I have been to shows in a venue like the Palace Theater which is very similar to this and it seems to be difficult to get the acoustics right. I saw Portugal. The Man there a few years back and a lot of it just sounded like noise because something wasn’t set up to cope with the facility. Hearing a song like “A-Punk” or “Diane Young” where the guitar is loud, and everything is super up-tempo, and having it sound perfect was a pleasant surprise.
During the middle of the set, everything slowed down a little bit and they played “Diplomat’s Son” with some crowd interaction singing the beat to the song, and then a few other slower songs, all of which built up to them playing several hits in a row. They rapid fire played “Diane Young”, “Cousins”, and “A-Punk” in the span of about ten minutes. That lead to the closing of the set, which they did with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Jokerman”.
Of course, they did an encore, which started off with a new song that I have not heard yet off their upcoming album. After that they asked for audience requests by picking people from the crowd and asking them what they wanted to hear. The first person asked for “Sunday Morning” by the Velvet Underground, which they played, even though Ezra said he would probably mess up the lyrics. After the song they said that they have played the song before, so it wasn’t disrespectful to request a song from another band. The second request was for “Step” and they played that as well. The set was closed with “Walcott” and everyone went home happy.
This was easily one of the best shows I have ever been to between the energy of the band and the crowd and the venue itself. Everything here was amazing and I hope more people can go out and see them on their Father of the Bride tour that is starting in a couple weeks.