Sometimes an opening act just has more chutzpah, charisma, and raw hunger for an audience's love than the band they're supposed to be warming people up for, and that was exactly the case at last night's sold-out double bill at the Fox. Brooklyn-based up-and-comers Tanlines, who last made an appearance here at Outside Lands in 2012, played a bang-up set that rose to heart-pumping crescendo. Meanwhile, the headliners, Vampire Weekend, played a good and polished set of their radio hits, along with a few new songs, but we couldn't help but feel it was all just a little too rehearsed.
Vampire Weekend of course burst onto the scene in 2007 at a moment when the music industry was struggling to redefine itself and launch new stars in the face of internet piracy and slumping record sales something which they're still doing, pretty much monthly. The debut, self-titled album from the quartet of clean-cut Columbia grads was a breath of fresh air, bringing with them the African rhythms that Paul Simon had co-opted two decades earlier and a literate, witty song-writing style.
Now, six years later, they're pros at this. They've done Coachella multiple times, as they are again this year. They've been up for a Grammy. They have a third album due out in May, and the air they projected during last night's 90-minute set was one of calm assurance. They've got this. The Bay Area clearly loves them most of the audience, largely younger than the band, would probably disagree with us about Tanlines being better and thus it felt like a show by the numbers. Don't get us wrong, lead singer Ezra Koenig sounded terrific throughout, and barely an off note got played. But by the time they got to the closing, spirited version of "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," at the end of their expected four-song encore, everyone was pleased. Pleased enough to clap and shout for a minute, but not enough to scream for an actual encore.
Tanlines, meanwhile, in their quick, rollicking, hour-long opening set, had some soundboard issues at the start that buried singer Eric Emm's voice under all of bandmate Jesse Cohen's complex percussion and keyboard accompaniment. But by the third or fourth number, all that was smoothed out, and Emm was belting his finest on songs like "Not the Same," "Real Life," "and "Lost Somewhere," with Cohen doing triple duty at points playing drummer, keyboardist and sound tech, queuing up recorded tracks. Even the filtering-in VW fans who didn't know their underground hit single "All of Me" and that was the vast majority of the room couldn't help but be swept up in their energy, and the infectious pop melody of the song. Below, we bring you their newish video for "Not the Same," which was the number last night in which they started to hit their stride, and bring everyone along with them for a quick, breathless ride.