words & photos by Sarah Rix (@sarahrix)
“…it was the equivalent to watching someone run a marathon at a world record-setting pace.”
Rolling through Melbourne’s The Croxton as a sideshow stop from Falls Festival, English rock band The Vaccines set a high bar for the year to come in concerts.
Opening the night was Vacations, a Newcastle four-piece making the type of tunes you could expect to hear at prom if your prom happened to be soundtracked by a Netflix music supervisor. It was evident that they (and, frankly, most other millennials) grew up listening to bands like The Strokes and Grizzly Bear.
Their wailing indie rock, delivered with a Car Seat Headrest-esque cadence by vocalist Campbell Burns, showed off the band’s genuine camaraderie. Plus, the rallying lyrics on their final song of the evening included “I’m so tired of doing nothing all day” and “life goes slow when you’re at home” – an added, relevant bonus to cap off a lazy holiday season.
The Vaccines are always going to be one of those bands I recommend people go see. It partly owes to their approachability – even if you don’t think you know their songs, you’ll still find yourself moving along to their endlessly bouncy indie rock numbers – but it can also be attributed to their stage presence.
Vocalist Justin Hayward-Young is a delight to watch. From his place centre stage, you can tell just how much he’s giving to the crowd – how much he needs reactions to perform and how much it means for him to receive.
Whether casting his eyes at the front row as they shouted back the words to “Teenage Icon” or riling up the audience with cries of “c’mon” during “Wetsuit”, he’s absolutely everything you want from a frontman.
Hayward-Young is spontaneous, energetic, present, and so good with his delivery. It almost doesn’t seem fair to the rest of the five-piece band, though they all play the important role in giving The Vaccines their overall catchiness and appeal.
The bombast of “Dream Lover” and the short, punchy, Ramones-worthy “Wreckin’ Bar” were all early highlights. Hayward-Young also narrated the audience through the trials and tribulations of “Post Break-Up Sex”, while the summery “Norgaard” and “No Hope” proved to be other fan favourites.
While the Ramones reference is an easy one to make, it’s also fair to draw some comparisons to Queen. The Vaccines highlighted the theatricality to their songwriting themselves, coming on stage to “I Want To Break Free” and later having bassist Árni Árnason goad the audience into clapping along to new song “Let’s Jump off the Top” – strongly bringing up memories of Bohemian Rhapsody’s “We Will Rock You” scene. It’s easy to imagine how well this would play to a festival crowd, especially once the track gets a proper release.
New material from the band’s fourth record (2018’s Combat Sports) also featured heavily. They opened their set with “Your Love Is My Favourite Drug” (a reference also made on their drum kit). “Nightclub”, too, was a big one with its nod to Blondie’s “One Way or Another”.
While The Vaccines are now all grownup (Hayward-Young turns 32 this year) and therefore slightly removed from the lyrical content on songs like “Come of Age”, the energy they manage to deliver makes it all still relatable and authentic. It’s not just because it’s nostalgic, either.
The wistful “Family Friend”, from 2011 debut, What Did You Expect from The Vaccines?, also deserves mention as a nice change of pace. It featured slowed instrumentals and an emotive delivery – the band building it up and finishing it off with a big flourish of guitars, drum and bass.
By the time they ended their brisk hour and 15 minute, 20-song set with “All in White”, it was the equivalent to watching someone run a marathon at a world record-setting pace. The Vaccines packed in a lot, kept it entertaining throughout, and will undoubtedly have the happy masses coming back to see them whenever their next visit may be. Myself included.