A Band Playing for and Against Its Own HypeJanuary 21st, 2011
The Vaccines – The Bowery Ballroom – January 20, 2011
There were two shows happening last night at the sold-out Bowery Ballroom, and the Vaccines were playing them both. As the most hotly buzzed UK band since the Arctic Monkeys, the London four-piece took the stage in front of a crowd that hardly knew them. A cursory exploration of the Internet would reveal that any nonindustry kids in attendance had heard a maximum of four songs before buying tickets to the first Vaccines show in the US. The crowd wasn’t exactly there to see the band, but rather, they showed up to see what they imagined the group would be. So the question and the disjoint hung heavy over an unwitting and ecstatic audience: Who are the Vaccines?
Even with all the hype, the Vaccines, displaying a combination of polish and caustic irreverence, appeared unfazed. They opened with “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra),” a sub-two-minute ripper sitting so firmly on the downbeat that you’d almost expect the floor to collapse. Two songs later, sounding like a more approachable Interpol, the Vaccines played their latest single, “Post Break-Up Sex,” the kind of love song that isn’t about love at all—kind of like people who fought to see a band they hoped might be great. The Vaccines hung the middle of their show on the fulcrum of their first demo, “If You Wanna,” a storming sing-along that might be their best song.
The quartet closed their main set with “Blow It Up,” describing destruction and mercuriality in the same chorus. And the two images of the band began to comfortably focus toward each another like uncrossing eyes. They were both themselves and the band everyone had imagined they could be. In the terms of their hype, they’re “the real fucking deal.” And nothing better shaped the evening than the second song, a tune no one knew (how could they?), where the final act was the screaming lyric: “We are happening.” And they were. —Geoff Nelson
Photos courtesy of Diana Wong | dianawongphoto.blogspot.com