I’ll start with the negative: seeing a Vampire Weekend show made me feel old.

And that’s really the only thing I found disappointing about the show.  I’m not one to focus on the negative, but I also won’t go out of my way to defend the performances of bands whose music I like if they happen to suck it up on stage.  There were a few things to criticize about this show, most notably the technical issues that plagued the band, but I ended up quite impressed Vampire Weekend, in spite of the mega-hype that’s always impossible to live up to, and in spite of feeling like a crotchety old geezer by the end of their performance.

The Wiltern has been host to some good times for me.  My favorite show of 2007 took place there – The National – and at the latest Explosions in the Sky concert I was fortunate enough to encounter the Friday Night Lights goddess Minka Kelly.  The pounded brass decorations that line the roof and walls of the theater give it a vaguely Egyptian feeling, the lighting and acoustics are reliably good, and it’s surprisingly easy to get to, especially if you’re willing to ride the bus or the Metro subway.

We arrived just in time to hear the last song of the first opening act, Abe Vigoda, and from what I heard they sounded just awful.  They were followed by Oh Look at Us We’re So Experimental (my bad, they’re actually called White Williams), a happy hardcore dream power-pop clockgazer band fronted by Cleveland-based Joe Williams.  Their music sort of felt like it belonged at a rave, in that it had the capacity to become tiresome very quickly.  It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it didn’t really put me in the mood to do anything – dance, drink, sleep, do drugs, nothing.  For such uninspiring music, it just seemed like a massively overwrought performance – like an auditory version of Spirograph.

White Williams – “New Violence”

In one of my older reviews I complained about the Verizon text-messaging screen that lowers between performances.  This time around, we learned that they actually censor the messages.  A couple of messages appeared declaring that “Lauren Singer is Beautiful,” so my incorrigible concert companion Verlaine attempted to warn the crowd at the Wiltern that “Lauren Singer has herpes” and we were both dismayed that it never appeared (though one of her future messages did).  The single text message that managed to get a reaction from the crowd read “Let’s hear it for Obama,” though the cheer it elicited was fairly tame.

Regardless of the massive hype following the release of their debut album (which was very well-represented amongst our Top of the First selections a few months ago), Vampire Weekend didn’t come across as having let their overnight success swell their heads.  They were dressed casually, cheerfully subdued, and frontman Ezra Koenig’s interactions with the crowd were refreshingly familiar, almost like his band was playing for an audience full of friends at their high school talent show rather than at one of LA’s venerable concert halls. The four members were dwarfed by the Wiltern’s large stage, and looked incredibly young, but unfazed.

Vampire Weekend was playing shows on both Wednesday and Thursday nights.  There’s a certain dilemma associated with two-night stands.  The potential peril of attending the first show is that they’ll have technical issues.  The problem with the second is that they might not have as much energy.  As we were attending the first of the two shows, the band was faced with the former problem.  After an uninterrupted opening of “Mansard Roof,” Ezra started having issues with his guitar.  He forged through “I Stand Corrected,” “White Sky,” and “Campus,” before finally cutting off a few bars into “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” to fix the problem.  I was very impressed with how casually he dealt with all this, I’d expect most musicians to be frustrated and fussy about it, but Ezra simply remained optimistic, thanked the crowd for their patience, and picked right up again once things were sorted out.  Major points for poise.

They played all of the songs from their debut album, and a few additional ones.  A quartet of strings players were brought out for M79, and the boys didn’t teast the crowd much before heading out for a quick encore.  Although the crowd was sufficiently appreciative, it was amazing how quickly everyone bolted for the exits as soon as Vampire Weekend had finished playing.  I guess they all found it as crowded and as suffocating as I did – maybe they’re as old and as crotchety as me.

Vampire Weekend – “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance”

Vampire Weekend – “A-Punk”

Setlist:

1.  Mansard Roof

2.  I Stand Corrected

3.  White Sky

4.  Campus

5.  Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

6.  Bryn

7.  Boston

8.  A-Punk

9.  One

10.  The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance

11.  M79

12.  Oxford Comma

Encore:

1.  Not sure

2.  Walcott