Originally published in NME on Wednesday, April 20th 2013.
“I’ve been in Ireland for five days and I’m starting to feel the effects. You’re gonna have to help me out on this next one. I’ve heard you sing and I’m impressed.” So pleads The Vaccines’ frontman Justin Young before he and bandmates Arni Arnason, Freddie Cowan and Peter Robertson launch into 2011 banger ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ to an overwhelming display of bouncing bodies and mass sing- along’s. And yeah, Young’s voice sounds jaded from five days on tour in Ireland, which included a 3am headline slot at Dublin’s booze-fuelled Trinity College Ball. So much so that the bawling masses at the Olympia tonight almost down him out during the “that helps you forget your ex” bit of the chorus.
Ahead of the Londoner’s biggest ever shows at London’s O2 in May the big question is: do the The Vaccines have the necessary hooks, riffs and epic choruses to own an arean? Well, there’s probably nowhere else in the world where an almost even split of lads and ladies are jubilantly belting out the words “There is NO HOPE” as they do during set opener ‘No Hope’, which takes on a fresh potency in recession- stricken Dublin. The sounds of debut single ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ follow, a song that’s pretty much on enormous chorus. There is, however, a noticeable dip as ‘Tiger Blood’ and ‘Wetsuit’ don’t quite capitalise on the explosive reaction to the opening tunes. The band sense it and rattle through them. making time to milk for the love for ‘Teenage Icon’, every bit the indie anthem. ‘Under Your Thumb’, meanwhile, initiates mass hand-clapping so loud and accurate it makes the air wobble. ‘I Always Knew’, though, is the most memorable of the night, as the crowd collapses in on itself under the strobe lights. So the songs are almost there. Releasing half of them as singles (11 of the songs from a total 22 across their two albums) has seen to that.
But it’s the swagger of lead guitarist Freddie Cowan that impresses most tonight. He oozes the charisma of a young Mick Jones, and with his jacket collar upturned, the younger brother of Tom from The Horrors is at his best when standing centre- stage during solos with his foot on a monitor, routinely throwing plectrums into the crowd. Young’s behaviour is in complete contrast to Cowan’s, and he’s seemingly taken aback by the reaction to the encore of ‘Wolf Pack’, ‘Bad Mood’ and ‘Nørgaard’. “The first time I played here, I was in a band that was supporting a band…Ireland seemed like a mythical place…it’s great that a band like us can come here and get this reaction.”
The Vaccines remain as potent as ever.