The song dedication to Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was maybe foreseeable, since one of the band’s biggest hits is “Cousins.”
A much more surprising Minnesota celebrity tribute during Sunday’s Vampire Weekend concert in Minneapolis came when State Fair cookie maven Martha Rossini Olson showed up. That’s right: Sweet Martha herself took the stage, thanking fans for buying a special cookie-branded band T-shirt available exclusively at the sold-out Armory show to benefit Friends of the St. Paul Library.
That cute matchup — with a snippet of the Beatles’ “Martha My Dear” for walk-on music — was just one of many warm, sugary, sticky moments Sunday.
Like those buckets of cookies you lug around the fair, though, the worldly pop-rock group’s performance felt a tad overgenerous, clocking in at 2¼ hours with some often unimpressive extended jamming here and there. But there was a certain irresistibility to it, too.
Coming off a five-year gap between Minnesota gigs, the preppy band that formed at New York’s Columbia University in 2006 is all grown up now. It’s nearly doubled in size, too. The current lineup behind the new album, “Father of the Bride,” features seven members, compared with the quartet that made its local debut at the Triple Rock in 2008, including a newly added second drummer.
Uh-oh: two drummers.
At that Triple Rock gig, Vampire Weekend was a scrappy, pink-cheeked band that basically played its debut album as is.
Sunday’s set was much more virtuosic and loaded with variation from the records — but the former collegiate band sometimes came off sounding like a lesson in musicology, with frontman Ezra Koenig as professor.
Now a Los Angeles transplant and the proud new dad of a baby with actress Rashida Jones, Koenig turned the band loose through playful updates of many of their old songs Sunday. He also gave serious airtime to the quirky new album.
Nine tunes from “Bride” were dropped into the set, starting pleasantly enough with the new-wavy show opener “Bambina” and ending with the toe-tapper encore kickoff “How Long?”
Among the highlights in between were the relatively mellow, unabashedly pretty ditties “Harmony Hall” and “Big Blue.” Both came late in the set and found Koenig singing as confidently, angelically as ever.
Earlier, though, he got overly cocky with the head-scratchingly hippie-dippie new tunes “Sunflower” and “2021.” Each featured wonky time changes and long, noodling solos by new guitarist Brian Robert Jones. You could hear the largely disinterested audience chattering loudly during the latter song.
Maybe the two drummers were to blame for the Deadheady tone more than Jones, an unquestionably gifted and animated guitarist. He did add crispness and sparkle while picking out intricate Soweto-style guitar parts alongside Koenig in older favorites “M79” and “White Sky.”
Many of the best-known Vampire Weekend songs came toward show’s end. The 8,000 fans turned giddy during the walloping trifecta of “Diane Young,” “Cousins” and “A-Punk” all in a row, followed by an unexpected cover of Christine McVie’s breezy Fleetwood Mac love song “Everywhere.”
Then “Horchata” and “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” both arrived in the encore by request of fans who knew to wear specially designated bucket hats to have their song choice heard.
Two requests for the next time the band is in town: Those requisite hats could be actual Sweet Martha buckets, sold loaded at the merch stand. And the performance itself could cut back on the stoner-like appetite for chewy, gooey instrumentation.