The Eventual Review

Vampire Weekend & Janelle Monae at Alexandra Palace

So I realise it’s been nearly two weeks since I posted about Janelle Monae and Vampire Weekend at Alexandra Palace and STILL HAVE NOT let you know what it was like. ‘Was he taken away on the wings of Paul-Simon-styled-African-cyper-funk?’ I hear you asking, ‘Is that why he hasn’t told us, his fellow followers, all about the event?’ Well, no, that’s not why. It is because I was quite disappointed by the experience and haven’t yet been able to write an account that is not slightly marred with the bitterness of the disgruntled adolescent because ‘they just didn’t do my favourite song. God!

The case was thus: Vampire Weekend, while not bad, were not good. They sounded EXACTLY like the recordings of their songs, with no discernible derivations anywhere, to the extent that several songs were played without interruption in precisely the order they appear on their albums. For a band that relies so heavily on the concept of its Sounds I was expecting a variety of musical breaks, with retro synths sweeping in to remind us how Gracelands really was the defining album of our parent’s generation. Incongruously, annoyingly, a mosh pit formed right in front of me and threatened to drag me in, even though I was in no skanking mood and had left my flared cords and studded belt at home – so it wasn’t all about the band, it was also about the entire experience. While I wasn’t expecting a ‘show’ as such, I didn’t want to come away wishing that I had just sat in the comfort of my living room listening to the album instead.

Vampire Weekend front man Ezra Koenig 'rocks out'

Janelle Monae does her thing, unaware at how
perplexed the Little Vampires watching her are

I took NONE OF THESE pictures, they
are all courtesy of the dudes at SONGKICK
(my gig pictures always suck)

Sadly, no one seemed to have any idea who Janelle Monae was, and her Arch Android album concept was not relayed perhaps as clearly or inclusively as it could have been, through terrible TERRIBLE graphics on two vast screens flanking the stage where Monae, dressed in her signature tux emerged, quaffed like Elvis, from a black cloak and delved energetically into Dance or Die, followed non-stop by Faster and Locked Inside. While she was very good, certainly entertaining (at one point, during Faster opting for a Sesame-Street-style Count laugh, instead of the lyrics to the chorus – AH! AH! AH!) I felt like she was let down by the crowd, which really means she was let down by her own management team. The only link between Vampire Weekend and Janelle Monae (other than the tedious vampire link of the Count’s clearly irrepressible laugh) is that both are slightly off-kilter takes on a modern musical genre, be it different genres with – evidently – very different followers. All I wanted to do was throw my hips and slightly inadequate quiff around to the impassioned 70’s soul-pop of Tightrope, but everyone else seemed stuck still to the floor, readjusting their preppy jumpers over the shoulders of their lurid Abercrombie and Fitch polo T’s – with the collar starched upward like wings flying home to the Hamptons.

No, it wasn’t quite that extreme. But it was apparent that someone much LESS interesting was required to warm up all the little vampires, and renegade Louisianan cyborgs were not this, as, like a cyber-soul stake, Monae pierced their minds with just a little bit too much to prevent them from catching fire in the Year 2300 Sun that rises over Metropolis. However, she is a very talented and original performer, so far into her own futurist world that the rest of us have to stand back, dance madly, and observe the spectacle, fish bowl like, which I really adore in an artist and wish I hadn’t felt like I was the only one who felt like it. If my friend and fellow Monae fan hadn’t been jiving next to me I would have felt like I was taking This-Crowd-Ain’t-So-Crazy Pills. I would, having now witnessed a glimpse of her live shows, love to see her in a small venue where other fans were more ostentatiously part of the dance floor, such as when she performed a year ago at Hoxton Square Bar and Grill, in East London, a gig I will always hate myself for not bothering to go to. Vampire Weekend however, I will listen to with extreme contentment, gently nodding my head in the knowledge that what I am hearing is the best it gets. And I don’t even have to leave the comfort of my sofa to get it.

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