In the 18 months since I last saw The Vaccines my love for them has only grown. Their second LP, Come Of Age, landed in my top 25 of 2012 and acted as a great follow-up to their awesome debut. When I saw them at Schubas for a Lollapalooza aftershow, I stood at the very front of the stage. It was one of the most visceral entertainments I’d ever felt (second maybe to Titus Andronicus).
We got to Lincoln Hall early and the place was already pretty full. The opening band, San Cisco, seemed to draw a good amount of fans. Apparently I missed the boat on these guys. I just checked out their record for the first time a few days ago, and it’s really good. I’d say they’re kind of like a less-pretentious version of Vampire Weekend or maybe a sweeter Arctic Monkeys.
I was standing stage left, in front of the huge speakers. Some of my view was blocked. I could pretty much just see the singer Jordi Davieson and the lead guitarist Josh Biondillo. Still, they sounded great and the crowd was really digging their vibe. I was surprised they played their big single “Fred Astaire” so early in their set. Most bands would save that for last, but they had plenty of material that’s as good or better, including another hit “Awkward.”
My favorite part of the performance came whenever Davieson and drummer Scarlett Stevens were trading vocals. They have a chemistry together that is just undeniable. I also enjoyed the surprisingly effortless high notes contributed by Biondillo. These are just kids, really, but they put on a great show.
The main floor at Lincoln Hall was packed tighter than Snoop Dogg’s spliff when The Vaccines hit the stage. Very few people remained in the seated balcony area above. Justin Young came out with a good looking beard and launched into Come Of Age‘s “No Hope.”
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this audience was the most raucous I’ve seen at Lincoln Hill. At least for the first couple songs. After “Wrecking Bar” people stopped constantly running into me. After the third song I was covered in sweat and loving every second of it.
There was a strange phenomena occurring when I saw The Vaccines in 2011, and the same thing happened last night. Young has an ability, like many great public personalities, of making you feel like the only person in the room. He makes eye contact with the audience-singing the words to each individual rather than the group. It’s a good quality for a performer to have when he’s singing to a few hundred (or thousand) people at a time.
There wasn’t a ton of banter-just enough that he acknowledged they were in Chicago and that it is “fucking cold,” much like Columbus. He stood at the edge of the stage and lead the fans in some hand clapping a few times, but that’s about it. One thing I thought was odd, though-Young announced that he was gonna need our help on “Post Break-Up Sex,” and then didn’t really have any interaction with anyone. I think he was trying to get the crowd back to the original rowdiness after they fell a little silent during a tuning break.
Eventually the crowd did get back into the spirit of things, with a riotous performance of “Change Of Heart, pt 2” and “Blow It Up.” The only major issue, for me anyway, was Freddie Cowan’s guitar work. It seemed like the level of sound he was putting out didn’t match up with the rest of the band. A lot of lead parts went unnoticed as he was muffled beneath the bass and Young’s rhythm playing. Not sure if others experienced this, but it was noticeable enough that it took me out of the moment a few times.
The band left the stage after an hour and ten minutes, ending the main set with a rendition of “If You Wanna” that almost blew the roof off the building. We got a peek at the setlist earlier, and there were three songs left to play. We hung out for about ten minutes as the crowd chanted-exuberantly at first and then quieter as time went by. All of a sudden the Lincoln Hall screen came down and the lights came on. Crestfallen, the 400 fans shuffled their way out the doors.
For the period of time they were on the stage, The Vaccines were the greatest band in the world. It takes a lot to get me really excited about a show, and from start to finish I was about as amped as I get. They know when to go balls to the wall and when to slow it down just right. They hold the audience in the palm of their hands. I’m not surprised they left us wanting more.
Lack Of Understanding
Under Your Thumb
Post Break Up Sex
All In White
Change Of Heart, pt 2
Blow It Up
I Always Knew
If You Wanna
And of course there were the three songs that didn’t get played because there was no encore.