Vampire Weekend/Titus Andronicus
United Palace Theatre
Sunday, January 17
I personally do not see anyone wearing the $30 bright-yellow “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” scarf available at Vampire Weekend’s merch table — and believe me, I’m looking — but later it’s rumored they’re completely sold out, so. There is certainly no shortage of enthusiasm this evening in Washington Heights, a packed house of cooing coeds swooning at Ezra Koenig’s every affable, deadpan word. (So dreamy! So clean-cut! So erudite! Your parents would actually approve for once!) They scream even when Ezra makes the probably true but nonetheless ludicrous claim that “this is the longest show we’ve ever done . . . a grueling experience, physically and emotionally.” It’s been like an hour, dude.
Phish they are not. And yet all told, after taking the stage to “Let Me Clear My Throat,” the dudes cram 20 songs into 80 minutes, models of painstakingly crafted pop efficiency. Fitting the grandiosely twee setting, the drums sound enormous, the frequently employed string quartet prim and vibrant, all those keyboard blips and burps unfailingly tasteful. The tight, expert, ska-pop bounce of “Holiday” (off Contra, most probably to be declared the country’s best-selling album in a couple days) segues splendidly into scarf namesake “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” off their self-titled debut, tunes from which the coeds seem overwhelmingly to prefer, especially the one about getting out of Cape Cod entirely.
All the cultural ephemera aside, this is a first-rate pop band writing relentlessly catchy, first-rate pop songs, particularly the manic “Cousins,” drummer Chris Tomson leading a riotous thrash-punk outro that improbably doubles in intensity the psychotic maelstrom of Homeric-epic-punk openers Titus Andronicus, who play a new song with a repeatedly screamed chorus of “YOU’LL ALWAYS BE A LOSER!” and do an excellent job of thoroughly appalling anyone who’d buy a $30 scarf at a rock concert. As for VW, only the new “Diplomat’s Son” falls flat — too many moving parts, from the M.I.A. sample to the chirping backing vox to the string quartet. By song’s end it is polyrhythmic in the strictly unintentional sense. But the kids eat it up anyway, and “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance,” too. You just know they don’t really mean it. The VW take over continues apace. Catch the fever.