"I'm so mad at the world!" exclaimed a teenager in front of me, flipping her hair while doing so. We were standing in a crowd in a dark hall lit with the dim glow of stage lights, waiting for The Vaccines to start. She was among the throngs of late teens who arrived earlier and bagged the front slots, while the considerably older folks (which included late twenty- and early thirty-somethings) stood at a distance. After a half hour wait, the posh lads came on, warming up the crowd with Handsome, their lead single off their latest record.
It's The Vaccines' second time here — they first opened for Kasabian in 2012 — and a lot has changed. They now have an EP and three albums to their name — the latter, English Graffiti, was just released in June. Lead vocalist Justin Young, lead guitarist Freddie Cowan, bassist Árni Árnason and drummer Pete Robertson make up this young band of five years, who first started off with a Ramones and Strokes-inspired sound, which was immediately evident with their first single, Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra).
And it's with this throwback to their initial success that really ignited the crowd to a sing-along and mosh pit-inducing headiness. Dream Lover came up next, another favourite from English Graffiti, which had the crowd clapping and singing — you almost couldn't hear Young's vocals above all the shout out louds. The 21-song set was well paced, with high-octane numbers from all their albums — Post-Break Up Sex, If You Wanna, Teenage Icon — interspersed with slower, melancholy-led tunes such as Wetsuit and I Always Knew.
The Vaccines don't come with a lot of baggage. There weren't any blinding visual graphics at the backdrop to distract you from their sound, nor were there streamers, confetti or balloons. Young and Cowan switched guitars quite a few times throughout the show, proving that their prowess extends over several instruments — as with touring member Timothy Lanham, who led a song with keyboards that noticeably quieted the crowd to a standstill. In another quiet moment — during the acoustic version of No Hope — Young even sheds a tear, revealing that he might just be the sensitive new age guy type.
Though we would have loved to hear more from this posh-accented lad, Young isn't particularly chatty — but he does engage you in other ways. While other bands' leads often look into the distance or in a daze when they perform in front of a group of strangers, the Southampton native's eyes dart about the crowd, often locking in his gaze to whoever's lucky.
This writer had a few privileged seconds. They're welcome to return anytime.
The Vaccines performed at Scape thanks to Secret Sounds Asia.