Vampire Weekend, October 25, The Forum, NW5
Vampire Weekend started 2008 on a high. Word spread fast about the latest addition to the NYC indie gang, and their much-hyped, self titled debut went down a storm with critics.
Sales weren't as high as they might have hoped - it just skimmed the top 15 - but they've built a live reputation through constant touring, and the venues have become bigger and bigger.
Tonight's the middle show of a three-night stint at The Forum and the audience seems as diverse and varied as the band's afro-pop inflected brand of indie-rock.
A group of hysterical girls propped up by the stage barrier scream as singer Ezra Koenig takes to the stage - his bashful, puppy-dog eyes and preppy college-boy looks winning the hearts of girls too old for High School Musical. While a couple of rows back, a middle-aged man in a Mogwai T-shirt whoops as the band launch into album opener Mansard Roof.
They've been on the road for more than a year, playing the same songs over and over, and that's done little to dampen their spirits, but their limited back catalogue is starting to sound tired. Which may explain tonight's guests.
A treat for those who fell for the elaborate, orchestral strings that lifted and cemented the world sounds of their album, towards the end of the set they're joined by a string quartet. It's the first time they've been accompanied on stage and, as Koenig gleefully tells the audience, it's also the first time they've broken through the hour mark, adding a couple of new songs and a re-worked version of Fleetwood Mac's Everywhere to their repertoire.
The sell-out run, topping a year of relentless praise has obviously boosted their confidence. Gone are the awkward glances and mumbling attempts at stage banter - Koenig jumps and claps during their new tracks and seems to be settling into his role as art-rock figurehead.
Show highlights include the newly renamed b-side Boston (formerly Ladies of Cambridge), the skiffle-guitar anthem A-Punk and the curiously apt Walcott. "This is a song about saying goodbye," says Koenig. And with any luck, we'll soon be saying hello to a new live show.