Twenty Nineteen is finally at our feet and to mark the moment, The Vaccines flew across the entire globe to give Aussies something to remember during the first week of the new year. The English group appeared at The Croxton Bandroom (Thornbury) alongside Newcastle band, Vacations, and left the sardine-packed crowd drenched in a sublime blend of both perspiration and admiration.
A handful of abstracted people may have faced confusion at the similarity of the evening’s two band titles but despite this, Vacations were an incredible opener and a refreshing complement to the headliner. Following the release of their debut album Changes in March of last year, Vacations continued to take over the world by embarking on their first international tour – safe to say it’s been an immensely successful year for the four-piece.
As they played, the speakers oozed with tinkling guitars and yearning lead vocals that brew a hazy, dreamlike atmosphere amongst the room. The key signature of their sound is definitely their use of layered melodic guitar riffs that flowed continuously throughout every song, taking the audience on a fluid journey as seamlessly as running water. Reminiscent of British alt bands like The Cure and The Smiths, Vacations perform music that resonates a feeling of bittersweet nostalgia; the chords are dreamy and the harmonies are pretty as hell, but a wistful sensation still washes over you as you listen. Their entire set was dessert for the ears and it absorbed my attention completely.
The Vaccines did not shy away from a memorable entrance: full beam lights went up on stage whilst the boys emerged to Queen’s, “I Want To Break Free”. With the success of the film Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) in recent months, this poignant allusion to Freddie Mercury was welcomed by the bubbling audience who boiled over at the first sight of the band.
Throughout the night, it became immediately transparent what an underrated success The Vaccines are. They released their latest and fourth studio album, Combat Sports, in March of last year and it cannot go unsaid what a masterpiece it is. Approaching the decade of their career, so many bands face either a momentary blip or terminal decline having passed their pinnacle moment. Unlike the majority however, for The Vaccines this new album remains as relevant and innovative as their debut. It was so satisfying to witness their old, definitive tracks, including “Post Break-Up Sex” and “If You Wanna”, being embraced by the audience with exactly the same enthusiasm as brand new ones, “I Can’t Quit” and “Your Love Is My Favourite Band”.
Their stage performance exuded nothing but PUNK. Justin Young (lead vocals) embodied that psychotic persona that so many punk musicians completely adopt. You know the one. Those mad, widened eyes and jagged, unpredictable body movements. It makes the knees of teenage girls gelatinise and urges teenage boys to join in by unveiling their inner-psycho too. The Vaccines have been compared to the Ramones profusely and it is no wonder why. There is something utterly intoxicating about a song being performed with the same level of 100 percent stamina throughout it’s entirety. This effect is doubled when the track’s duration is so brief that you don’t even have time to digest what has happened because it’s already over. The Vaccines captured this classic Ramones characteristic throughout the night by layering their concise under-3-min hits sporadically within their set – dropping “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” and “Norgaard” like ephemeral firebombs.
In hindsight, “Family Friend” might be a somewhat predictable song to close on. Arguably the first emotional ballad of the whole performance, one that most fans can sing every lyric to, but still with that punk edge – an ending that increases in tempo, volume, distortion and general chaos. It’s high impact and it leaves the audience totally elevated. Without a single word the entire band left the stage and were replaced instantly with technicians re-tuning the instruments.
Despite the sheer predictability of the approaching encore, the audience played up to the immortal ritual of applauding, screaming and desperate pleas for “one more song”. To no one’s surprise but to everyone’s satisfaction, the group returned to the stage and broke immediately into newer singles, “Put It On A T-Shirt” and “NightClub” before closing the night on the crowd’s favourite and most anticipated, “All In White”.
At one point during the evening Young mentioned, “we’re a long way from home, but it doesn’t feel like it”. Being a Londoner myself, it was easy to empathise with them in that moment. From beginning to end, the room felt completely united in our simultaneous morale and I even made two new friends in the crowd. Boys, our love might be your favourite band.. but you are incontestably ours.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Vaccines tour of Australia has come to an end but you can follow their future movements and find out more HERE.
Listen to their latest single “All My Friends Are Falling In Love” HERE.
The reviewer attended the performance on January 3rd 2019.
Photography by Rebecca Houlden.