Picking Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut as the subject of this unique JD Set concert was another example of Neil Hannon’s playful brilliance. Bowie, Scott Walker or XTC all could have been in line for the covers treatment but he chose a recent classic that no one would object to hearing a supergroup of the finest musicians interpret.
And so it was that flanked by red velvet drapes and beneath a chandelier, Hannon (keys, quips), Cathy Davey (percussion, autoharp), Richie “Jape” Egan (bass) and Romeo Stodart of The Magic Numbers (guitar) delivered an impeccable and flavoursome rendition of that fine indie-afrobeat record. They were joined there by a three-piece string section from the Divine Comedy stable as well as revelatory drumming talent Ross Turner.
“Excellent; one down,” breezes Hannon after a short and sweet ‘Mansard Roof’, before Egan’s octave-lower vocal on ‘Oxford Comma’ shuffles out with something of a stoned saunter, likewise their funky and tight take on ‘A Punk’. The group had already road-tested ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ on The Late Late Show a couple of weeks back, leading Hannon to remark tonight: “unfortunately you can’t take your engineer with you to the Late Late! This sounds better!” And it does, with band and audience now partying the songs into life.
A giddy rush of strings signal that ‘M79’ is up so Romeo steps to the mic, his soft US accent providing the group’s final ingredient at this juncture. Hannon introduces ‘One (Blake’s Got A New Face)’ with the following: “The opening lines are ‘Occident, out at the weekend’, which is why I love Vampire Weekend.” Davey takes lead vocals and suddenly that yelp don’t seem so bad. Her cooing vocal also fits nicely over album-closer ‘The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance’ after the Bosco-like intro to Walcott leads Jape into another animated and personalised vocal interpretation (even Dolphin’s Barn gets a mention). As they take a collective and deserved bow, ideas are already popping into your head, ideas of a touring supergroup and a collaborative recording project. Rarely has such a good idea on paper been realised so fluidly.
By way of encore, Hannon pops out again for reliably crowd-pleasing solo renditions of DC staples ‘At The Indie Disco’, ‘Our Mutual Friend’, and ‘National Express’. Then he’s off again. Then he’s back on, this time with the rest of his new gang. “We’re going to do songs by us and hope we don’t murder them,” he deadpans. Squeals converge above the audience with roars and Cathy Davey fires into ‘Little Red’. Then it’s time for the sunny Magic Numbers single ‘Love Me Like You’, a song Mr Egan seems to have a major soft spot for if his grinning throughout is anything to go by. He keeps his bass on for ‘Floating’ and lets Romeo peel off the Eastern-flavoured riff (he must be used to other people playing it by now) and the whole takes on a slightly sterner, baggy extended-jam feel. There’s time for one more run through of ‘Oxford Comma’ for good luck before a night to remember is brought to a triumphant finale with ‘Tonight We Fly’.
Some drinks don’t do brilliantly devised promotional concerts. But Jack Daniels do.