The 2013 season roster of the highly anticipated concert series offers more concerts than ever before, and also with the shows starting earlier in May and ending later in September than ever before. A risky move with Utah’s fickle shoulder seasons, but the folks at Red Butte knew what they were doing when they booked the innovative indie-rockers Vampire Weekend. The band could warm up any crowd on the chilliest late-spring night, but the weather accommodated with clear skies and a waxing moon, and a there was a blanket of yells and cheers from the dancing crowd.
Vampire Weekend played roughly 20 songs over the course of their hour-and-a-half set. During this second time they’ve toured through Utah in several years -- the last time was a stuffy, overcrowded In the Venue performance -- the band displayed ample skill and a level of assuredness not seen before. Despite minimal interaction with the crowd (although, when it did happen, it was sincere and endearing), the NYC-based four-piece totally owned the stage.
The band opened up with “Cousins,” the jubilant, bouncy song off of Contra, and rarely slackened pace throughout the set. Another early set highlight included “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” and its lyric “Can you stay up to see the dawn?” invited revelers to keep on reveling. As VW oscillated between their three albums -- which, if you are unfamiliar, are a triptych that came to a close with a 2013 release -- I was most impressed with Modern Vampires of the City. Truth be told, when I listened to this new album the first time, I thought it was trite; but, like any good work of art, the more I immersed myself into it, the better it became. Now, I think it is a work of genius, and showcases the band’s smart lyrical sensibility, as well as their matured use of production and modern songwriting techniques. The lead single off of that album, “Diane Young,” was played early in the set and stood out as one of the best songs of the evening.
And then the sun set, with the hills lit with the Utah alpenglow -- one of my favorite moments at any Red Butte show -- and VW continued their onslaught of awesome with new song “Unbelievers,” followed by another set highlight, “Horchata.” Next, one of the most sincere and moving songs of the evening, the slow, sensuous number “Everlasting Arms,” gave a little respite to the many dancing fans in the front (of which I was one, of course), and then, the band weaved it right into “A-Punk.”
After a upbeat roundhouse kick of awesome -- a series of songs to pump the crowd back up, which included “Oxford Comma” and the bass-heavy, four-on-the-floor tune “Giving Up the Gun” -- the band took a break before the encore. The crowd cheered to the massive mirror hung behind the stage with a chandelier projected on it until the band came back out. Vampire Weekend ended the evening with “Diplomat’s Son” and their typical last tune, “One (Blake’s Got a New Face).” If this is any indication of what the RBG concert series -- or summer music in SLC, for that matter -- has in store, it’s going to be one hell of a summer.
What was in my cooler: Carol Shelton 2009 Wild Thing Zin
What I did after the show: Not about to wait in traffic, we hiked up Red Butte Canyon to an overlook of the reservoir -- highly recommended -- and came back more than two hours later to a peaceful drive home.
Best overheard quote: “Whoa, mirrors with projections and fog are triiippy.”
Favorite song: “Giving Up the Gun”