The Vaccines

with Oh Mercy

It was a stuffy evening downstairs at HiFi, and with the unseasonably warm weather a large crowd gathered early to sink a few beverages and claim their places in the front row, eager to witness the UK's latest buzz band The Vaccines making their Melbourne debut.


Warming the stage were local four piece Oh Mercy and with their recent change in line-up the band seem to have finally come into their own, playing a set that was surprisingly enjoyable. I've never found Oh Mercy to be a fun live act, their music is rather blase and all of the previous performances I've seen from them have always been lukewarm. The band have never had a lively presence, with bassist Eliza Lam seemingly sleepwalking through the performance, however front man Alex Gow did well to hold the crowd's attention with his passionate vocal delivery and their soothing sounds were well received by the audience. Gow and his relaxed demeanour was pleasant to watch as he spoke to audience between tracks, explaining the origins of his convoluted lyrical content, introducing his new song "My Man" as a tune about homosexual love or a ballad/love song written from the perspective of a jealous female.The set was an even mix of the old and new, with highlights being nice renditions of "Keith Street", "Stay Please Stay" and "Lay Everything On Me". Oh Mercy finished off a solid set with an engaging cover of Leonard Cohen's "Memories" before walking offstage to a polite round of applause. Oh Mercy are still a middle of the road live act, but their set showed much improvement on their earlier incarnations.


There was a long wait between sets before the house lights finally went down and The Vaccines walked onstage to Dilated Peoples - This Way and instantly got the crowd moving with their garage infused surf rock sounds. I had high hopes for their set with the band having a solid live reputation and was slightly disappointed with the overall lack of energy in their performance. Front man Justin Young seemed to be resting comfortably on his laurels, displaying little showmanship or enthusiasm for the music, he seemed content in simply coasting through their short set without making an effort to engage with the crowd or make the performance special. In spite of this their show was enjoyable, just not particularly memorable. The Vaccine's general indifference did nothing to deter the enthusiasm of the crowd who were happily dancing around and singing along to "Family Friend", "If You Wanna" and "Post Break-Up Sex".


The Vaccines music is very fun and their musicianship was spot on as they powered through a quick 40 minute set without bothering to stop for an encore. Young seemed overwhelmed by the response from the audience, thanking them for coming as the band was unsure what to expect on their first trip to Australia, before walking offstage. All in all The Vaccines were an enjoyable live act, but it would have been nice to see them really unleash onstage and let the performance unfold organically with more spontaneous moments, as it was their live sound barely deviated from their studio recordings and the show was lacking the spark and intensity to elevate it from being good to something truly fantastic. They played in front of a banner which read 'what did you expect?' and I guess this reviewer was simply expecting too much. The Vaccines are a band who play with no thrills and delivered a stock standard performance of indie rock with just enough English swagger to appease the hungry crowd.

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