It’s hard to believe that Ezra forgot about the confetti. This isn’t a band that suffers many oversights.

Towards the end the of their show at the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday night, Vampire Weekend’s buttoned-up front man simply forgot that the canons would fire during “Ya Hey.” With an expansive 30-song set, replete with the old, the new, covers and guests, we’re gonna let this one slide.

There are precious few groups that successfully evolve while never betraying the immediately identifiable sound that once made them famous. For Vampire Weekend, this is where cerebral meets fun. VW songs shape shift from the ornate Baroque indie prep, all the way to Afro punch pop – and beyond. But make no mistake: they are, at all times, Vampire Weekend. Never mind the fact that with the departure of Rostam Batmanglij, and the release of Father of the Bride, the group has been reborn as…a jamband?

Vampire Weekend 2.0 is now a seven-piece band that includes four new ready, willing and able members. Greta Morgan (Springtime Carnivore) added pretty vocal strands to “Giving Up the Gun,” and Will Canzoneri took an 80’s synth solo in “Stranger” that evoked an unexpected cinematic soulfulness. OG drummer Chris Tomson now has a partner in crime in the form of Garrett Ray, who played the Kreutzmann to Tomson’s Hart.

And then you have new flare from the playfully unhinged lead guitarist Brian Robert Jones. Sure there was that sticker of Britney Spears slapped on his pink electric, and his hair did add about 10 inches to his height. But he also bounded around the stage executing high kicks, and bouncing incessantly as if he were skipping rope like some Brooklyn-based boxer in training.

Though is wasn’t only the aesthetics. His solo on “Unbearably White” squealed like a trumpet, and after the angular intro of “Sunflower,” Jones stepped to the forefront to manifest the sonic equivalent of the expanse of big sky country.

Chris Baio presented as a direct descendant of Flea, his rubber band dance moves helping him snap around stage left enough to earn the bassist unsung MVP honors. He kicked his own legs high in “Walcott,” relocated himself backwards with a two-legged frog hop riding the frantic pace of “Cousins,” and even returned large inflatable beach balls to the audience with his busy legs.

Tomson, on the other hand, was relegated to do his bidding behind his kit (in a T-Pain t-shirt). His drums crashed hard, especially in “A-Punk,” where the cascading strikes rattled the Bowl’s brain into a sonic loop version of Escher’s confounding staircases.

If you’re still doubting the jamband claim, consider the one-two confection of “Horchata” > “New Dorp, New York.”

“Horchata” percolated as if it were cut with boiling milk, then made contact with deep space via the interstellar echoes of Jones’ electric wand. Just when VW flirted with minute 28 of the Alpine Ruby Waves, they went full throttle on “New Dorp, New York.”

Strobe whites and bloody reds alternated in illuminating the Bowl’s shell during the SBTRKT cover. A space disco interlude birthed a guitar solo that sounded like the band was being chased up the Cahuenga Pass; the berserk peak would’ve levitated the room at an LCD show, and this all from your 2019 edition of Vampire Weekend.

The venue was damn near sold out, causing the typically cool and confident Koenig to marvel a bit: “This is a big spot.” Considering that their self-titled debut surfaced more than a decade ago, perhaps it makes sense that there were so many young kids in attendance, escorted by parent hipsters of yore.

When mixed in and among tunes from their debut such as “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (which was sealed with a kiss from Jerry), “Oxford Comma,” and an audience request section during the encore, each of Vampire Weekend’s previous LP’s received due attention.

But it was the freshly baked Father of the Bride tracks that anchored the set.

Early single “Harmony Hall” is a perfect modern pop song, and a likely future candidate as a signature VW song. It injected pure joy far and wide as Brian Robert Jones climaxed it as if it were the mid-90s, and his last name was Anastasio.

On “This Life,” the Haim sisters emerged to help out, before usurping the controls and making it sound like one of their own. Sister Danielle stayed on for a massive rendition of “Hold You Now.” When the song approached its chorus, blinding rainbow lights flooded the crowd as someone in the band triggered the album sample of a children’s choir that sounded like it could swallow the Bowl whole. It was like a Benetton commercial on LSD, a specific energy that was later reprised during the communal uplift of “Worship You.”

But precision ruled the night, even when VW stretched the set closer “Jerusalem, New York, Berlin” north of 8 minutes. On FOTB the song is a meditative coda. Live, it became a prayer epic, adorned with multiple movements. Its trajectory, however, was inverted. There were sternum-buzzing bass notes when it began, and the delicate tinkling notes of a music box to end it.

Jamband or not (pssst, they are), musical justice is served when an instrument-driven act can fill up the Hollywood Bowl on a Wednesday night in October, just a few months shy of the new roaring 20’s — Vampire Weekend’s third decade as a band.

Photo: Jamie Callahan, Spyral Art


Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Finger Back
Unbearably White
My Mistake
New Dorp, New York
White Sky
This Life (with HAIM)
Hold You Now (with Danielle Haim)
Harmony Hall
Diane Young
Hannah Hunt
Oxford Comma
Jerusalem, New York, Berlin (with Danielle Haim)
The Boys Are Back in Town (by request)
Boston (Ladies of Cambridge) (by request)
Giving Up The Gun (by request)
Worship You
Ya Hey