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Review: The Vaccines @ O2 Academy

In the era of streaming and Phoebe Bridgers whisper-sung ballads, some artists have forgotten the art of the anthem. The Vaccines have perfected it.

By Annie McNamee, Digital Features Editor

It’s been over a decade since If You Wanna thrust the London band onto the UK music scene with enough vigour to startle a mountain. That momentum didn’t quite continue, and walking into the O2 I was intrigued to see how the band was fairing now that they weren’t the up and coming Indie kids they had been when Post Break Up Sex was trending on Tumblr.
Immediately, I was struck by the variety of audience members. In front of me were three men in their late thirties, behind me were three teen girls. To my left, a couple of slightly older women were laughing over their G&Ts, and at the back of the venue an assortment of what I can only assume to be dads stood cross-armed, observing; analysing.

Suddenly, the lights dimmed. Live and Let Die boomed, and out ran the Vaccines. With arms held high and knowing grins, they jumped into Love to Walk Away, a single from their newest album.
At this point, I’ll admit; I was sceptical. I couldn’t figure out if the entrance was sincere, and with such high-energy songs, I was worried they may have peaked before they even began playing.
Without missing a beat they began Wrecking Bar (Ra Ra Ra), which ran straight into I Can’t Quit, an unexpected highlight. The tune was clearly a fan favourite and thanks to a very chantable chorus I felt like a veteran Vaccines ultra by the end of the song - I was almost tempted to start asking the people around me to name five songs that ‘aren’t on the debut’.
As the song drew to a close, frontman Justin Young proclaimed, ‘Bristol, you are the best crowd yet!’ As we cheered he admitted with a laugh, ‘yes, we do say that to everyone. Don’t worry about it. Let’s drown it out with nostalgia.’ Post Break Up Sex began, and I relaxed. This was a guy who knew what he was doing.
And as the show continued, he proved me correct over and over again. Young carried the show effortlessly, displaying all the millennial swagger of Alex Turner without the self-indulgence. His almost-awkward dance moves were endearing, and he had the complete command over an audience that only comes with a decade of experience.

Everyone else seemed to agree. The crowd warrants a note of its own, being the friendliest concert-goers I’ve had the pleasure of dancing with in a while. Cheery music attracts cheery people, and cheery people make for a great time.
The band’s good natured demeanour was so infectious that I began to feel guilty for any cynicism I had entered with. Their energy did not falter, as I had been worried it might, and there were multiple songs, namely I Always Knew and the encore Sometimes, I Swear which proved The Vaccines are a band who write music which is meant to be enjoyed live. I didn’t know these songs before the concert, but I was still swept up in the camaraderie of the crowd and the catchiness of the choruses.

The concert drew to a close with a quick rendition of Norgaard, which Long left to us to sing. Of course this was no challenge for such an adept group, and we gave a performance that would’ve made Gareth Malone proud.
I haven’t enjoyed myself quite that much at a gig in a while. The London boys’ decade-long career has not relegated them to the league of ‘uncool thirty-somethings riding on the successes of their youth’ as it would have done for lesser showmen. Instead, a Vaccines gig can be best summed up by a comment I overheard as we left the venue; ‘what a great f*****g time!’

Featured Image: Frank Fieber

Have you seen The Vaccines live?