Formerly buzzy indie bands face a tough decision as they enter their later years: pander to the youth and adapt to their surroundings, or double down on what made them relevant in the first place and become a legacy act.
In the run-up to their fourth album, this year's Father of the Bride, there was much consternation over how the proudly preppy New York outfit had been swept up in trendy reappraisals of jam-band shenanigans. It's true that noodling is the keystone of their new sound, but that may be the only way forward for the band.
When Vampire Weekend first started touring as a boat shoe-clad quartet of fresh Columbia grads over a decade ago, their debt to Paul Simon's Graceland was so substantial, covering the folk legend in a live set would've been far too on-the-nose. But last Saturday, a jammed-out rendition of Simon's "Late in the Evening" was grist for the mill of the marathon 29-song set.
Classics like "A-Punk" and "Holiday" were played with an urgency and abandon that belied the group's fade into middle age. "White Sky" and "Giving Up the Gun," two of the bounciest pop tunes in their arsenal, were reimagined as ambling festival-bait ditties, the latter following a swirling electric piano interlude that would make the Doobie Brothers proud.
A less capable act would have failed colossally, but the secret is something that's been hidden in plain view the whole time: Frontman Ezra Koenig and company are fantastic songwriters. The songs themselves have good bones, and no amount of talking guitar solos ("2021"), Gypsy Kings cosplay (opener "Sympathy") and Phish-y rambling ("Obvious Bicycle") can take that away.
Perhaps being young forever isn't the path to relevance. In Vampire Weekend's case, it's leaning into the chilled-out after years when trends are of little concern, there's plenty of money to employ a dude in mismatched tie dye to add guitar solos to everything and the grooves are all too tasty to not indulge.