"Maybe sometimes a band needs to look backwards to go forward."
Recently signed by local label I Oh You, Green Buzzard started the London-centric evening with a bit of local flavour. It was one of the band's first shows and touring nationally with Adelaide pub-rock quartet Bad//Dreems later this year will help refine their live sound and challenge them to generate a stronger onstage persona. They played a nice collection of tracks nonetheless and the early signs are positive.
It was going to be a late show for a Tuesday. Palma Violets thrashed their way on stage at 9.30pm to cheers and raised fists. Bass player Chilli Jesson spent the set teetering on the edge of rock god and petulant teen as he flung himself across stage knocking over his microphone on dozens of occasions and generally stealing the focus from the band's primary singer Thomas Fryer. His antics diminished an otherwise solid set which at times was refreshing as clean piano sounds swam under a huge wave of distortion and heavy drums. It was loud and often unsocial but ultimately tight and the crowd showed its appreciation, particularly for the hit that vaulted the band to prominence in 2013, Best Of Friends.
The Vaccines obviously have quite a following. Fans were bursting out of their skins as their favourite band played a distinctly unraucous version of Handsome. It's the best song from this year's long player, English Graffiti, and didn't quite strike the chord it should have. The two-and-a-half-minute belter, which could be performed really nastily, was instead subdued as singer Justin Young was focusing more on strumming his acoustic guitar than energising the eager crowd.
Unfortunately, this seemed to be the flavour for the evening. The Vaccines did their best with the material they have but there were just too many down moments. Melody Calling needs to be hidden in a bottom drawer somewhere and never spoken of again. Give Me A Sign and other insipidly obvious attempts at making stadium rock should be ripped up.
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Making the evening bearable (and pretty fun) were the tracks that had sent The Vaccines on the hype train half a decade ago. Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra), If You Wanna, Norgaard and Wetsuit had the entire crowd barking lyrics back to the band with vigour. There weren't enough of these genuinely delightful moments though and apart from blaming the band's "growth", the concert's overall denunciation could be due to the lack of authentic charisma shown by anyone in the five-piece. They certainly tried but attempts seemed just that — trying... Rock shows should be more organic and surreptitiously engaging, leaving the audience sweaty and beaming without understanding why. It's difficult to achieve and maybe it was because it was The Vaccines' final show in their Australian tour but their performance was definitively lacklustre.
It's lucky the good songs are great because the show was not. It skimmed along the surface and was propped up by some generous overexcited fans. The Vaccines are a good band — this is doubtless. But they need to delineate their sound. Are they pop maestros, garage or swelling rock musicians? Once this has been established, the show will have greater cohesion and will enable consistency whether it's lively, pretty or utterly debauched.
When introducing the sixth song for the evening, Young said, "This one's a new one but it's a very good one." The song was called Minimal Affection. Maybe sometimes a band needs to look backwards to go forward. Let's hope The Vaccines can reproduce consistent tracks of old in the future for their army of fans, many of whom didn't wait for the triple encore at this disappointing show.