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Vampire Weekend fuels a dance mood at Crossroads KC show

06/03/2014 2:27 PM

Over the course of three albums, Vampire Weekend has evolved from a band that accented its cheery indie-pop tunes with the sounds of Afropop to one that has forged its own blend of polyphonic whimsy.

Along the way, however, its music has consistently depended on two reliable elements: catchy melodies and fetching grooves.

Monday night, Vampire Weekend headlined a show at Crossroads KC. It was the band’s second appearance in Kansas City in less than eight months (it performed at the Midland in October), yet it drew a sold-out crowd of nearly 2,000. And for most of the 90-plus minutes, it turned the place into a laid-back dance party.

The 19-song set list was a nice mix of all three albums, starting with the jaunty opener, “Diane Young,” from the sonically adventurous “Modern Vampires of the City,” released last year. Like many VW songs, its lyrical themes are dark or introspective — “Nobody knows what the future holds / And it’s bad enough just getting old” — belying the exuberant music that surrounds them. But the song aptly set the mood for the rest of an evening that had the crowd bobbing, dancing and singing-along throughout.

Several songs ignited outbursts of recognition: “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” from the inaugural self-titled album, now 6 years old; the keyboard-fueled “Unbelievers,” a gem off “Modern Vampires”; and “Cousins,” from the “Contra” album. Another “Contra” song, “Horchata” got a big response. They fused it seamlessly into “Everlasting Arms,” another “Modern Vampires” standout.

Lead singer Ezra Koenig is from the less-is-more school of frontmen. Dressed casually in an oxford shirt and camouflage cargo shorts, he had little to say to the crowd beyond a few cheerful hellos and thank yous. Otherwise he spent most of the night immersed in the rhythms and sounds that he and his three bandmates were producing, dancing along at times like many in the crowd before him. Touring has turned the band into a well-polished machine, one that faithfully re-creates the sound of its recordings, sometimes a little too perfectly.

There were a couple of mellow moments. One was “Obvious Bicycle,” which ended the set. The other was “Hannah Hunt,” the first encore. But they restored the upbeat mood with “Walcott,” the band’s traditional closer. It’s a romping pop song that rides a beefy keyboard riff and a bouncy bass groove over which, in his sweet deadpan voice, Koenig delivers the sing-along melody.

And the crowd submitted to all its charms because it’s hard to resist what is so irresistible.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com.

SETLIST

Diane Young; White Sky; Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa; Unbelievers; Holiday; Step; Finger Back; Horchata; Everlasting Arms; Cousins; California English; A-Punk; Ya Hey; Campus; Oxford Comma; Giving Up the Gun; Obvious Bicycle. Encore: Hannah Hunt; Walcott.

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