Article and Photos by: Jason Robey
Charlotte, NC — In the hour leading up to the doors opening for Saturday night’s show, a sudden thunderstorm, complete with severe weather warnings urging people to find shelter, led fans to the social media pages for the bands and the venue. The outdoor show, with no cover over any part of the crowd was still on, as scheduled.
By the time the opening act, Chicano Batman, hit the stage, the rain and dark skies had given way to the evening sun, leaving wet seats and a pleasant breeze as the only memories of the storm that tore through Charlotte only a couple hours earlier. Relieved fans were still making their way into the Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre as the Latin indie rock group played a laid back 45 minute set, that perfectly matched the lingering cool air. Vocalist / keyboardist Bardo Martinez moved around his center-stage keyboard as smoothly as his voice glided in and out of a falsetto. The Los Angeles four-piece stayed in their mellow groove through most of their set, until their last song, “Magma,” from their 2014 album, Cycles of Existential Rhyme.
Vampire Weekend took the stage in a similarly laid-back manor, opening with “Flower Moon“ with minimal lighting, in front of a gigantic globe and otherwise clean stage set. The seven-piece band quickly turned to the quirky, eclectic style they’re known for, with “White Sky“ and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” inspiring touring guitarist Brian Robert Jones and bassist Chris Baio to jump and bounce around their sides of the stage. Audience members close to the middle of the amphitheatre could see the near-symmetrical plot of the stage, as the two drummers and two keyboardists were perfectly spaced across the backline, flanked by Jones on one side and Baio on the other, with vocalist / guitarist Ezra Koenig front and center.
This show marks the first time the band has played in Charlotte, and the band was determined to show the city why their live show is so popular. Packing 30 songs into their solid two hour set, they drew from all four of their albums and sprinkled in a handful of unexpected covers, making an unforgettable show. Even the handful of fans that made the two-hour road trip to see the previous night’s show in Raleigh wouldn’t have been prepared for the band to debut an upbeat cover of The Doors’ “Peace Frog,” or “California English,” an original tune they haven’t played in five years.
One highlight of the set was the high-energy “Horchata,” which they brilliantly and seamlessly connected to a run through of SBTRKT’s “New Dorp, New York,” with an extended tribal drum jam and a screaming guitar solo. Slowing things down, they played a beautiful rendition of “How Long,” slightly reworked for a live performance, featuring touring keyboardist Greta Morgan trading vocals with Koenig. Following another pair of the band’s slower songs, they kicked into full gear with the 2013 single “Diane Young,” starting a run of the their most popular and upbeat songs, tearing through “Cousins,” “A-Punk,” and “Oxford Comma” barely taking time to breathe in between. They wound down the set with another surprise cover, the 1980s classic “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” by Crowded House, before taking a brief leave from the stage.
Returning for their encore, they took a pair of audience requests, starting with the rare “Ottoman,” followed by “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance,” requested by an actual kid. When it was finally time to bring the show to a close, they played a lively “Walcott,” from their 2008 self-titled debut, while two enormous inflatable globes were tossed into the audience to roll around. There is no question the group’s Charlotte debut was a night that won’t soon be forgotten.