Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN - 5/12
The VaccinesPrevious Next
author TL date 25/10/12 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN
It's been a slow October for me personally, so despite the fact that I have not been unconditionally taken aback by The Vaccines - one of last year's fastest rising Brit-rock bands - the fresh memory of a good Roskilde Festival performance by them eventually convinced me that I might as well spend a slow Tuesday night seeing them again in Pumpehuset. I arrive to meet photographer Peter by the door and we enter to have some beers, to learn that the show will take place in the venue's bigger upstairs room and to look around and see that for once, we're at a show that seems to have more women in the audience than men. A strange experience indeed, but let's talk less about that, more about the bands at hand:
Holograms singer/bassist Andreas Lagerström
Tonight's warmup duty has been assigned to Stockholm-based post-punk quartet Holograms, who - if I am to be honest - come on and start their show under less than favourable conditions. Granted, they seem to work with a very tight, minimalistic approach with a backbone of simplistic yet noisily effect-drenched instrumentals, but as they start out, the drums and bass dominate all and the combined proto-punk yelps of the four band members come out even more tuneless than is probably intended. The impression improves slightly however, as the guitarist eventually finds more presence in the mix and lets rip with some small solos here and there, and flourishes like these and the occasional changes of pace on the drums make for some of the most interesting moments in a set where it otherwise feels a lot like every song is played at exactly the same (fast) speed. The singing gets better as well, but it is clearly still meant to sound punk and you get the feeling that the general idea here, is for energy to carry the day rather than consistent displays of musical intricacy. What does not make any sense then, is that the band has lined up on stage with synth player Filip Spetze standing front and centre behind an old Korg, looking completely disinterested compared to the otherwise rather animated performances by his three friends around him. Maybe he's having an off day, but his lethargic presence in the centre of things completely handicaps any notion of transferring any punk-rock energy to the half full venue, with most people responding with bits of polite clapping at best. Overall, Holograms start out bad, gradually get more interesting, but never really build into something entirely convincing.
After the changeover things are instantly entirely different as The Vaccines come on and prompt the sort of high-pitched response from the many tween women in the audience, that bands like Panic! At The Disco have routinely received from these women's teen counterparts. Pumpehuset's upstairs room is now pretty much full and most of it is composed of wide smiles and happy hands and feet as The Vaccines quickly fire off up-beat hits like "No Hope", "Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)" and "Teenage Icon". The sound is near-perfect, with the signature guitar melodies coming through much more clearly than was the case for Holograms, and The Vaccines also look like the many shows they've played during their rise to fame have already given them plenty of experience in how to look like rock stars on stage. Guitarist Freddie Cowan (the brother of The Horrors synth/bass-player Tom Cowan) steps boldly forward when his parts are in focus and looks like each note he squeeses out of his guitar are felt through his whole body and it's clear that the band soon has the audience where they want them, as singer/guitarist Justin Young precedes one song by stepping up to his mic, slumping down a bit and letting a melodramatic sigh escape into the mic which instantly commands even more elated noise from the happy audience. Moreover, cheap points are also scored when bassist Arni Hjörvar being originally from Iceland, charms the crowd with a sample of his Danish skills.
When the audience is happy it is perfectly understandable though, because The Vaccines are the kind of band who already at this point in their career have got a long line of hits just waiting to whip up good moods in a live environment. Whether it is energetic, up-tempo, dance-friendly songs like "I Always Knew" or "Ghost Town", or more slow-burning oldies like "Wetsuit", "Blow It Up" or "Post Break-Up Sex", the band's average songs are just so catchy that it's impossible for each to not prompt some solid singalongs and applause as they come rolling off the set-list (although the songs from the debut album clearly still has most fans at this point). It is also no surprise then, that when the band goes out back after a set that has progressed like clockwork, the applause and screams for more do not stop for a second until the band come back and close proceedings with an encore containing renditions of the electrifying "Bad Mood" and the serenade to Danish model Amanda "Nørgaard". Looking back, it was all in all a solid show for an audience who came with a good mood and left with a better one. I'd remark that maybe Justin Young's vocals could have been a tiny bit clearer in the mix at times, to better connect with guests that might not have been super familiar with the band's music, but really, this is a small complaint only barely worth making.