By the time 9 o’clock rolled around on Saturday night, there was no sign of the beach blankets that had dotted City Hall Plaza for most of the afternoon. This time, Boston Calling festivalgoers all crowded around the Blue Stage, standing on the tips of their toes, for a glimpse of headliner Vampire Weekend.
The band stepped onto the stage and into a deafening wave of screams from crowd. The artfully disheveled lead vocalist Ezra Koenig seemed quite at ease in this adulation – and for good reason. The band was fresh out of the recording studio with a third album on the shelf and continuing to push their trajectory of widespread appeal and critical acclaim to new heights.
But any and all pretentions were dropped as the band launched into the lead single from Modern Vampires of the City, “Diane Young.” Channeling the high energy and wry irony from his college band days at Columbia, Koenig peppered sly bridges of “baby, baby, baby, baby,” while bemoaning how “it’s bad enough just getting old.”
With that, he continued to revisit his youth with fan favorites from previous albums, such as “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” “Holiday,” and “Cousins.” The concertgoers sang along to the quirky, Afropop-infused hits, name-dropping Benetton and Peter Gabriel and exploring themes of post-colonialism and feudal Japan along the way.
The band even brought out a rare B-side gem from their first EP, “Ladies of Cambridge.” For the first time that night, the crowd stood still as Koenig confessed: “I’ve had dreams of Boston all of my life/Chinatown between the sound of the night/But if you leave I just don’t think I could take it…”
Soon enough, it was time for the last song. The band bid everyone goodbye and dedicated a very appropriate song to the Boston crowd about leaving New England. Koenig couldn’t help smile through lines of “Walcott, don’t you know that it’s insane/Don’t you want to get out of Cape Cod, out of Cape Cod tonight?”
Somewhere between the allusions to Derek Walcott, Provincetown, and Hyannisport, Vampire Weekend convinced the crowd that even as the band leaves City Hall Plaza, their music has internalized the city of Boston at its very core.