The last time I saw The Vaccines in Southampton they were playing in a tiny room upstairs at Unit, a small alternative nightclub on the Joiners side of town. As the majority of local indie fans assembled at Garden Court to watch Stornoway, the intrigued few crammed into the miniscule room eagerly awaiting a band who had yet to release a single but whom we all suspected were about to blow the bloody doors off an increasingly ‘nothingy’ music industry. Our intrigue was repaid with a storming 30-minute set, our first opportunity to hear songs like ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ and ‘Norgaard’, which went on to become festival anthems and dominate radio playlists nationwide.
Two NME front covers, a ridiculous festival season and a stadium tour with Arctic Monkeys later, The Vaccines arrived back in Southampton at the Guildhall. Moving from probably the smallest venue in town to by far the largest in the space of the year, the four-piece had something to prove. Justin Young and co. only have one album, and it’s only half an hour long — could they pull off a gig of this size? The Vaccines put these fears aside by providing a surprisingly lengthy night of raucous indie rock.
The band pulled out all the stops to beef out their set; as well as whipping out their entire album they also delivered two brand new songs, as well as outing fan favourite B-side ‘We’re Happening’ and the Albert Hammond, Jr.-produced standalone single ‘Tiger Blood’. Whereas many new bands keen to play bigger gigs may have turned to flashy light shows and confetti cannons to make up for empty time, The Vaccines banked on new and lesser-known material to provide a show worthy of the ticket price.
The setlist was carefully crafted. Making sure to keep momentum, The Vaccines punctuated key points of the night with their small collection of big hitters: ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ was on second, ‘If You Wanna’ was aired second-to-last in the main set, and ‘Norgaard’ was saved to conclude the encore. The main set began and ended with slower numbers (‘Blow It Up’ and ‘Family Friend’, respectively), ensuring that proceedings never seemed rushed. This setlist craftsmanship ensured that all attendees went home impressed by the full evening of entertainment, not feeling cheated by a hurried run-through of recognisable singles.
As expected for a band that has been on tour for the majority of the year, The Vaccines were tighter than the skinny jeans dominating the audience; with non-stop guitar riffs and a lengthy drum solo to end the set, the band showcased a great musical ability — surprising for a band whose songs mainly clock in at under two minutes. Quelling another worry among audience members, you couldn’t tell at all that singer Justin Young’s throat has been under the knife three times this year; he shouted and crooned his way through his back-catalogue just as convincingly as he did at Unit a year ago.
In the modern musical climate, bands with work ethics like The Vaccines are hard to come by. The Vaccines seem to work by the motto ‘play as many shows as you can in as short a space of time as possible’, and it’s a testament to their abilities that they continue to play lengthy, upbeat, entertaining shows despite their unrelenting touring schedule. As The Vaccines continue this string of live dates well into December, it’s advisable to catch them while you can before they retreat to the studio to construct their ‘difficult’ second album.