[GIG REVIEW] The Vaccines @ O2 Academy, Birmingham, 7 April 2018

The Vaccines have made an undoubtedly explosive comeback with the release of their highly anticipated fourth studio album ‘Combat Sports’ released on the 30th March and reaching Number 4 in the Official Album Charts last Friday. Following the departure of their original drummer Pete Robertson in 2016, people wondered what the next step for the band would be. However, The Vaccines did not disappoint and bounced back with a vengeance, bringing on board two incredibly talented musicians, drummer Yoann Intonti and guitarist/keyboardist Timothy Lanham to join the band. ‘Combat Sports’ is an album that focuses on the indie guitar sound that The Vaccines started out with, brimming with tracks laden with catchy hooks, foot-tapping choruses and pure rock’n’roll, the entire album most definitely strikes a chord with new and old fans alike. Last week, the band embarked on their first UK tour since 2015. Commencing in Bristol and ending this Saturday with Alexandra Palace in London, the tour is the perfect way to showcase the new material, as well as the new line-up and intriguing new aesthetic that the band are adopting. We were lucky enough to attend their sold-out show at the O2 Academy Birmingham on Saturday night and it definitely did not disappoint, the gig was everything we hoped it would be and more!

With The Vaccines having sold out the Birmingham show very much in advance, the 3000 capacity venue filled up extremely quickly, with fans trying to obtain a good spot for the headliners who would hit the stage at 9pm. Punk rockers Dream Wife set the perfect tone for the night ahead. They opened the show with a set complete with memorable tunes that encouraged the crowd to participate and chant along, even if it was their first time seeing the band. Tracks such as ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ and ‘Somebody’ established the Riot Grrrls as ones to watch for this year, with an unbeatable energy and empowering tunes, it is evident that Dream Wife have big things ahead for them. The crowd were embracing the punk rock ethos, and the atmosphere was dynamic in preparation for indie favourites The Vaccines who would be taking to the stage in just a few minutes.

The curtain was drawn back and revealed the stage, with the shining drum kit and multiple disco balls coming into immediate view, the audience were obviously excited for what was to come. The lights dimmed, cheers echoed around the packed room and The Vaccines walked confidently onto the stage, preparing themselves for the hour and a half long set that they would be performing. Frontman Justin Hayward-Young, sunglasses on, poised himself at the front of the stage, making gestures at the audience to build the energy-level even more before the band commenced into the somewhat heavy riffs of catchy new track ‘Nightclub’. The mosh pits formed, the crowd chanted and the entire band gave the opening track their all. The Vaccines were back, with a fresh element to their live performance that made them establish themselves as one of the best indie bands out there at the moment.

Swiftly following on with fast-paced old favourites ‘Wreckin’ Bar' and ‘Teenage Icon’, the crowd’s eagerness reached a whole new level, the mosh pits got bigger, the room become hotter and the band’s enthusiasm and content being back out on tour was evident. Revisiting their last record ‘English Graffiti’, The Vaccines launched into their fantasy science-fiction esque track ‘Dream Lover’. With the disco balls out in full force, the venue became circulated with glimmers of light and the atmosphere became out of this world. Lead guitarist, Freddie Cowan, played the familiar powerful guitar riffs with such force that the room itself became encapsulated by the vigorous positive energy exerted by the entire band throughout the set.

Gearing back to nostalgic favourites, the familiar prolonged note which unmistakably was identified as the beginning of crowd pleaser ‘Wetsuit’ encouraged the crowd to brace themselves for the tune ahead. Justin confidently made eye contact with numerous members of the audience before building up to the climax of the song. Walking across the stage, engaging with the crowd and putting all his effort into portraying every lyric with immeasurable feeling, it is clear why he is the much-loved indie frontman he will always be. Launching into ‘Bad Mood’, the frontman continued with his punchy vocal and non-stop actions, creating an energy that bounced straight into the crowd to build mosh pits galore as well as occasional crowd-surfers and never-ending jumping.

Popular ‘English Graffiti’ tracks, ’20/20’ and ‘Minimal Affection’ were clearly great setlist choices, continuing the rock’n’roll vibe whilst simultaneously embracing the more recent Vaccines sound sonically and lyrically. This bridged the gap between old and new material perfectly, leading straight into some lively ‘Combat Sports’ tunes. The driving drum beats in ‘Out On The Street’ combined with the flawless lead guitar and punchy basslines throughout inevitably ensured that the audience maintained their dynamic state whilst singing along to the catchy choruses laden with hooks galore. The fast moving 80s-style introduction in ‘Your Love Is My Favourite Band’ as well as the repetitive yet ingenious lyrics, transported the room to an era of yesteryear, the wide demographic audience dancing eagerly as if they had known the track for years beforehand. The overall sense of union and enjoyment was undeniable, each and every person was seizing the moment as much as the other.

Continuing to build on the audience’s vivacity, The Vaccines ensured to give the crowd what they wanted in regards to material from their 2011 début ‘What Did You Expect from The Vaccines?’, performing a trio of unbeatable classics. ‘Post Break-Up Sex’, ‘Nørgaard’ and ‘A Lack Of Understanding’, reminding the crowd as to why The Vaccines continue to be the indie band who make fuzzy guitar pop accessible to the masses through anthemic choruses, non-stop catchy riffs and punchy tunes which set the room alight when performed live. Each and every audience member was singing along, beaming smiles circulated the space and the band’s passion for bringing their recorded music to life was highlighted throughout. The more laid back but compelling new tune ‘Take It Easy’ was noticeably yet another crowd pleaser, with the band’s backing vocal becoming instantly gripping as well as the sonically pleasing sounds emitted from Justin Young’s acoustic guitar. The light reflecting from the disco balls contributed to the overall feeling of nostalgia and jubilation, swiftly leading into the familiar, fast-paced ‘Handsome’ which provoked even more enormous pits forming all around the O2 Academy. Evidently, everyone in attendance was having the best time, as well as The Vaccines who visibly were enjoying themselves.

The big-chorused ‘Come of Age’ favourite ‘I Always Knew’ brimming with sentimental lyrics as well as instrumentation that faultlessly intensifies the climactic build ensured the audience remained fixated and involved. People got on people’s shoulders, continuous repetitions of ‘ohohoh’ echoed around the venue and hands powerfully punched the air. The Vaccines’ third and arguably most successful single ‘If You Wanna’ was welcomed with immeasurable applause, the opening rich bassline encapsulated the ecstatic sentiment of the room, the band were thriving off the liveliness infront of them, front row spectators were getting pushed incessantly at the barrier, it truly felt like rock and roll was alive once again. The lead single from the new album, ‘I Can’t Quit’, increased the level of animation, Justin’s high-spirited vocal was undoubtedly reflective of the times of uncertainty of the band’s future, meaningfully chanting ‘I Can’t Quit’ with such vigour that one could feel the emotion embedded within the track.

Receiving endless roars of applause and cheers, The Vaccines exited the stage, leaving their instruments behind to be fine-tuned before confidently gracing the stage one last time in reception to never-ending chants of ‘Wetsuit’ being repeated by the audience on a constant loop. The set was extended with a rendition of ‘No Hope’, a tremendous, energetic catalyst towards the culmination of the incredible show. Proceeding speedily into ‘Put It On A T-shirt’, which again, established a positive reaction, with the majority of the crowd singing back every lyric meticulously. The Vaccines will never cease to write hook-laden tracks which can remain in one’s head for days on end, the new tunes certainly continue this winning formula for the band. The Birmingham gig ended on an indescribable high, with the entire band thanking the crowd before playing classic heartfelt anthem ‘All In White’ to the now sweaty room filled with fans singing each lyric emphatically, it was a truly special moment. The merriment and elation of everyone in attendance was distinct, The Vaccines are undoubtedly one of those bands who effortlessly bring happiness to a crowd, whether that being at a gig or a festival. ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’ you ask, ‘A 10/10 non-stop pure rock and roll show.

The Vaccines play London’s Alexandra Palace this Saturday 14th April. Last few tickets are available here. Don’t miss out! It’s going to be incredible.

Photos by Lauren McDermott.

Review by María Torres.