Indie Pop Heroes Vampire Weekend Thrill Over Two Nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado

The concerts were the band's last U.S. headlining dates on their 2019 'Father of the Bride' tour

click to enlarge Vampire Weekend at Red Rocks near Denver - Photo: P.F. Wilson
Photo: P.F. Wilson
Vampire Weekend at Red Rocks near Denver
Red Rocks Amphitheater just outside of Denver is one of America’s most — if not the most — iconic concert venues. As such, it was the most fitting place for Vampire Weekend to wrap up their 2019 Father of the Bride tour in the U.S. (they'll pick up dates in America in 2020). After a festival show in Austin, Texas, the band now heads to Mexico before traveling to the U.K. and Europe.

For this final headlining U.S stop of 2019 (on Oct. 8 and 9), Vampire Weekend played two shows on successive nights. This wasn’t exclusive to Denver. In many cities this year, Vampire Weekend played two shows. When they did this, though, they always played two fairly different setlists.

Night 1 in Denver couldn’t have been more perfect. Fans enjoyed a warm fall evening under clear skies as the band proceeded to perform for a Springsteen-esque two hours and 45 minutes (which they would top the following night). The set started with “Bambina” from the latest album, followed by “Unbelievers” and “Boston (Ladies of Cambridge).”

To bring the songs to life, with all the layers fully realized, co-founder/lead singer Ezra Koenig was joined by core members Chris Baio on bass and Chris Tomson on drums. They were assisted by Brian Robert Jones on guitar, Garrett Ray on drums, Will Canzoneri on keyboards and Greta Morgan (ex-The Hush Sound, Gold Motel and Springtime Carnivore) on keys, guitar and percussion. On the first night, Morgan was called down to sing “Married in a Gold Rush” and on Night 2 she assisted on the show-opening song “Hold You Now” (which also opens the Father of the Bride album). Those parts in the studio were done by Danielle Haim off of Haim. Morgan smashed it though, and not just on those tunes. Indeed, the whole band was sharp.

For the most part, they kept it tight and played just about every expected song from their catalog except, sadly, “Obvious Bicycle” and a few tracks from the new album. The overall sound was rich, no doubt helped by the unique acoustics of Red Rocks. On “This Life,” for example, you could clearly hear Baio’s hand sliding up and down the neck of his bass.

With so many resources, the songs were beautifully performed, faithful to the original recordings while providing some slight differences. In spots, the band morphed into Phish, jamming extensively on “Sympathy” and “2021,” as well as, on Night 2, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Joker Man.”

Speaking of Night 2, the weather did not work in anyone’s favor. Daytime temps in the 80s plummeted before showtime as wind gusts threatened to cancel the show. By the time the opener, Soccer Mommy, hit the stage the thermometer was registering just above 50. Then the rain started about a half dozen songs into VW’s set with the mercury dropping to 32 late in the show.

The scene was somewhat reminiscent of U2’s famous 1983 concert at the same venue under similar conditions. Vampire Weekend, though, are less anthemic than that Irish quartet and simply played on, trying to keep the crowd's mind off the falling temperature. To that end, they treated the crowd to the fast-paced “A-Punk” twice.

For the encores of both shows the band took requests, something they did on the entire tour. On Night 2, though, Ezra informed the crowd that the hard curfew for Red Rocks was 11 p.m. and since this was the last night of the tour, they were going to play right up until they had to stop.

Night 1 wrapped up with “Worship You” and “Ya Hey,” while Night 2 concluded with “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” the Crowded House hit, and Vampire Weekend’s usual closer “Walcott,” a fitting ending to their two-night run and U.S. tour as a whole.



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