When I was first introduced to The Vaccines at seventeen years old, I never thought I would get the opportunity to photograph and review them over eight years later. Their lasting appeal stems from their ability to pair mature themes like love and sex with upbeat guitar-based indie pop. This is reflected by the variety of ages of fans screaming Justin Hayward-Young’s lyrics in the Guildhall on Sunday.
Given the band’s proclivity to explore the trials of modern youth, it comes as no surprise that a large portion of the crowd was made up of teenagers, I even met a concert attendee who had arrived outside the venue at 10 am in order to greet the band as they exited their tour bus. Despite the large number of fans which The Vaccines have accumulated, they struggled to fill the gigantic Guildhall, though perhaps that was a testament to how many fans were clamouring to get as close as possible to the boisterous energy put forward by the headline act.
Jesse Jo Stark had the tough job of being the first to warm up a subdued Sunday crowd. Luckily the “West Side Chick” delivered an energised set which emanated glamour and sass. Presenting solid vocals with a pop vibe, the band matched her performance with a rock edge which woke the crowd up from its post-roast slumber. This was particularly evident when she began her cover of the instantly recognisable “Betty Davis Eyes” by Kim Carne.
As the penultimate act, Hatchie opened with one of my favourites: “Sugar & Spice” from her latest EP of the same name and delivered a production which stayed true to her dreamy synth pop sound. Though more subdued compared to Jesse Jo, the Australian singer/songwriter proved that her music can fill larger venues whilst holding the crowd’s attention.
A few albums and lineup changes from their beginning as an earnest indie pop band, The Vaccines took to the front of the stage in a decidedly strident manner, reflecting their move toward bouncy pop in their latest studio album “Combat Sports”. This was complemented by the stage being doused in green and gold and the band being framed by palm trees. With lead singer Justin back in his home city of Southampton, his rapport with the crowd was instant, as he goaded them into exuberance as their set began.
The band were quick to crank up the energy level with each member being in constant motion and Justin prancing about the stage, engaging every eye and ear in the room. This was most true when the band played one of the first tracks they ever released – “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra). Like many in the crowd, this song was my first introduction to The Vaccines, which gave me a sense of nostalgia and provoked a manic response from attendees.
Unsurprisingly, the bands older music was the best received with tracks like “Wetsuit” (In which the crowd practically sang the entire song), “I Always Knew”, and fan favourite “Norgaard”, proving to have aged well. These tracks now contained an aspect of improvisation on the part of the band, making the event even more personal. That being said, Justin’s ability as a front man shone through when successfully asking if he could “borrow” the crowd’s voice on newer tracks like “All My Friends are Falling In Love”.
With the rest of their set excellently blending popular songs from across their career alongside fresh tracks, an epic encore rounded off their performance with my personal favourite track, the anthemic “All in White”. The Vaccines yet again proved their worth as musicians, performers, and contributors to the British music scene.