VAMPIRE WEEKEND, O2 Arena – Evening Standard, 14 Nov 2013

The biggest leap for a successful young band is the one between theatres and arenas. Even all those summer festival hordes, who Vampire Weekend have entertained so capably with their smart, sunny tunes, may not have prepared the four New Yorkers for the challenge of being solely responsible for a grand scale spectacle.

This year the band’s third album, Modern Vampires of the City, proved to be a confident step up in quality and away from the air of novelty that surrounded their early blend of indie pop and African guitars. So it is logical to supersize their concert game too. However, the giant black curtain of doom at the back, indicating a failure to sell out, was the most obvious sign that they have fallen a little short.

In a green jumpsuit and shades, like Tom Cruise in Top Gun, singer Ezra Koenig looked like a star but lacked the charisma to captivate a room this big. His energetic yelping suited bright, rollicking tunes such as A-Punk and Diane Young, and he augmented it with clever electronic effects on California English and Ya Hey. However, between songs he was perfunctory and a cover of Blur’s unhinged Song 2 sounded polite in his hands, with a hint of embarrassment to his woo-hoo-ing.

The rest of the band were impressive to watch as they constructed the intricate, unorthodox soundbeds for songs such as White Sky and Hannah Hunt. Rostam Batmanglij was the busiest, playing guitar, keys and singing, while Chris Tomson did smart work on both electronic and conventional drums.

A backdrop of floral wallpaper, classical columns and searchlights was pretty, but they stopped shy of breaking out the lasers that such an occasion demands.

Thankfully, their liveliest songs  were capable of making an impact without visual aids, especially Cousins and the rampant opener, Diane Young.

When they return they may retreat to the more indie-friendly space of Alexandra Palace, perhaps — still a lofty achievement for one of the most musically interesting bands around.