With all of the excitement for Glastonbury reaching fever pitch, most people may have been feeling a little envious of their friends who have been posting photos on Facebook of their wonky tents and abundant supply of festival cider. Hurrying into the O2 Academy in Bournemouth on Tuesday night, however, I can guarantee that almost everyone going was positively beaming, knowing that it was raining at Worthy Farm, and we were going to get to see Vampire Weekend’s set three days early, in a room which was dry, warm and anything but muddy.
Stealing Sheep were the only support act of the night, and high expectations rested on their shoulders following lots of hype over the three-piece in NME in the last 12 months, along with the praise that they garnered whilst supporting Alt-J on their UK tour last year. After all of this, it was disappointing to find out that they were just… not that good. If you go to see Stealing Sheep expecting something between Haim and Warpaint, disappointment is guaranteed as the girls lacked the intensity or distinctive songwriting ability of either of these bands. Nevertheless, their set was well received by the audience, with an almighty cheer for their most well known track ‘Shut Eye’. Their harmonies and general musical ability meant they delivered a perfectly mellow 40 minute set but their music just isn’t different enough to truly create much interest.
After a wait of nearly 40 minutes, the room was plunged into darkness and a royal brass fanfare sounded, the lights came up, a curtain dropped, and the four-piece took to the stage, which was brought to life with a gigantic mirror against a backdrop of floral wallpaper. Launching straight into ‘Cousins’ – the lead single from their second album – the energy in the room was immeasurable, going on to rattle through early favourites like ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’. Frontman Ezra Koenig exudes a slightly geeky charisma as he thanks everyone for coming, and announces that this is their first UK show since the release of third album Modern Vampires of the City leading to performances of ‘Diane Young’ and ‘Step’. Both of these tracks sounded noticeably heavier when played against their earlier tracks but provided colour to their set which was lapped up by the audience who were singing along with every word.
The atmosphere in the room throughout their 80 minute performance was infectiously happy and this gig was a real celebration, playing more danceable songs including ‘Horchata’ and ‘Everlasting Arms’. It was at this mid-point though, when Koenig looked expectingly at the crowd before sending them into a sweaty frenzy by diving into the instantly recognisable and quick-paced ‘A-Punk’. Clearly a fan-favourite, the room of already excited gig-goers were in a state of ecstasy. ‘Don’t Lie’ calmed down the audience, being one of the band’s most downbeat tracks, but the tempo was soon raised again with ‘Ya Hey’, ‘Campus’ and another fan-favourite, ‘Oxford Comma’. The clunking, mechanical beginning of ‘Obvious Bicycle’ marked the end of the show with it’s calming, reflective pace and harmonies. Of course, the audience wouldn’t leave it at that, and Vampire Weekend returned to the stage to play an encore featuring ‘Hannah Hunt’ and ‘Walcott’; proving to be a brilliant choice as the crowd energetically threw themselves around for one last time.
Vampire Weekend don’t tend to do many UK shows, and their last tour here was in 2010, but when they do, it’s clear that they put more effort in than most. It might just be because they are taking this show to several festivals throughout the summer, but it wasn’t just the music that impressed. The band provided an exemplar performance; this is how shows should be. Their incredible staging saw different images appear in the mirror which seemed to hover above their heads on stage, and all four members had their sound perfectly rehearsed. To top off the whole performance was the lighting, which really wowed the crowd. Timed exactly to coincide with the percussion and drops of the individual songs, the lights would blind and flash at just the right moment. The climax of this was penultimate track ‘Giving Up The Gun’ in which euphoric strobe lighting really blew everyone away.
Walking through rainy Bournemouth on the way to the grade-II listed O2 Academy I felt relieved to not be sitting in a tent in the west country, but leaving the venue I couldn’t have felt more different. My jealousy of Glastonbury goers had reached a climax. Seeing this performance exhausted, smelly and damp on the Pyramid Stage on Sunday will surely be the highlight of the festival for everyone who is lucky enough to catch their set.