When was the last time you heard a late-night TV crowd cheer an instrumental intro? It’s the type of thing that just doesn’t happen, but it happened last night. Vampire Weekend were the musical guests on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and they came to play “Sunflower,” one of the songs from the new album Father Of The Bride that shows the newfound Grateful Dead influence that Ezra Koenig keeps talking about in interviews. The song’s intro, an interlocking network of guitar lines that sound like bird calls, takes on a whole new dimension when you’re watching musicians recreate it in real time. And the crowd reacted spontaneously, which is how you know you’re doing a good job as a late-night musical guest.
TV performances are, of course, nothing new for Vampire Weekend. But they haven’t been doing them for a while. Earlier this week, the band played on The Tonight Show, and it was their first time playing on TV in five years. But there’s no rust there. Ezra Koenig knows how to play to the camera the same way he knows how to play to an audience, and the band’s new touring lineup is already a fully locked-in unit.
On Kimmel, the band played “Sunflower” without Steve Lacy, the R&B experimentalist and member of the Internet who appears on the album version. But they did have a full horn section, something that wasn’t there in that Tonight Show performance. And they just floated. The Kimmel cameras made sure to catch plenty of shots of fingers on guitar strings, and the performance works as further evidence that the new songs will sound great when the band hits the road this summer. (I don’t understand why they played the smaller indoor studio, rather than the Kimmel festival stage, but I’d have to assume it was an intentional choice.) Watch the performance below.
UPDATE: As a web extra, Vampire Weekend covered Bob Dylan’s “Jokerman,” a song they’ve been doing live lately and one that has long been a subject of fascination for Koenig.
Father Of The Bride is out now on Spring Snow/Columbia. Read our Cover Story feature on Vampire Weekend here.