The Vaccines are a band who can’t quit. With four albums under their belt, a new line-up and new music in the midst, the English band packed their bags with their signature punk rock sound and headed for Australia to celebrate New Years in the summer.

Kicking things off at The Croxton Bandroom were the similarly named Vacations. The four-piece Newcastle natives laid down a nice tempo of indie, shoegaze jams to the growing crowd. They jangled through songs off their debut album Changes, released in of March last year; a dreamy record that oozes charming guitar riffs and melodies. Their live sound elevated the band’s nostalgic essence with their delightfully dewy harmonies and by their spritely can-do attitude. Smiling between each of their songs that would perfectly soundtrack a laid-back Sunday afternoon in the summer, Vacations are simply, a joy. You can’t help but wonder what big things are coming their way in 2019.

With a get-psyched sing-a-long to Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Free’, the crowd were buzzing with excitement as the main act of the evening emerged on stage. Without a word, but with a burst of bright lights, The Vaccines jumped straight into it with “Your Love Is My Favourite Band” from their fourth and latest record Combat Sports released in March last year (another commonality with Vacations). An album that moved away from the pop synths of English Graffiti and leant back into the band’s signature punky-guitar driven bursts of vivacity from their first two major releases, the newer songs from The Vaccines were experienced with as much enthusiasm as their earlier hits from What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? and Come Of Age. Bouncing between their extensive catalogue of indie-rock and power-pop anthems, The Vaccines expertly balanced their live set.

Between blink-and-you’ve-missed-it ragers “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)”, “Norgaard”  and “If You Wanna”; guitar lickers “Teenage Icon” and “No Hope”; punchy head shakers “I Can’t Quit” and “Take It Easy”; and tender heart melters “Wetsuit”, “Post Break-Up Sex” and “Family Friends” the crowd soaked up every moment of The Vaccines’ multi-faceted live performance. The band’s newest single “All My Friends Are Falling In Love”, despite only being released a few weeks ago, was met with a festival-like chant from the crowd at The Croxton. Proving just how infectiously delightful and catchy The Vaccines’ can be. Justin Hayward-Young (lead vocals) by his ear-to-ear grin was visibly ecstatic at our response to the first taste of new music from the group. Speaking of, we were also treated to a brand-new, unreleased “Let’s Jump Off The Top”. What can we expect from The Vaccines?, you ask? New music. It is coming in hot and it is sounding as tight as ever.

Having played an hour and a half of non-stop surf punk goodness the five-piece left the stage the same way as they had arrived, without a word (they chattered and joked with the crowd throughout the performance, just not at the start and finish). Music technicians replaced the band immediately signalling their soon return. An encore. Waiting in the dark the crowd predictably screamed for a few more songs. As the group walked back on stage they were greeted with a booming applaud before they rounded out the night with Combat Sports favourites “Put It On A T-Shirt” and “Nightclub” (that cowbell – ooft! Big fan). Closing with the much anticipated (and expected) “All In White”, this final song of the night dug up every emotion left in the room, everyone there singing back the ballad to the band. The Vaccines became the crowd, we the performers, as they paused their playing of instruments to watch us sing to them. It was a unifying and touching moment to leave the night on and a relieving contrast to the energetic and unrestrained looseness of the rest of the show.  

The Vaccines’ live performance was a display of indie punk rock as its finest. On stage we see Hayward-Young at the mic keenly wide-eyed, unpredictably moving left, right, back and forth, adopting the sporadic jostle of limbs and pecking-neck of all good punksters. Freddie Cowan on the lead guitar manages to pluck out the catchiest hooks in their genre of music and is a gift to anyone inspiring to pick up the strings, while Arni Arnason hit the deep hitting bass notes to no mistake – even giving us a good shouting at when the quick-fire rock hits yearned for grit and grizzle. Newest members of the group Timothy Lanham (keyboards, guitar) and Yoann Intonti (drums), were introduced to us early in the evening and respectively both wowed long-time fans of the band at their ability to ease so fittingly into the group. Intonti is a gun on the sticks, hard-hitting and head-banging as he fails to miss a single beat, while Lanham oozed suaveness behind the keys. Having caught The Vaccines live in Australia back in 2012 and 2015 it can definitely be said that growing from a four-piece to a five-piece, the band’s live sound has exploded to a new level of uncompromising melodic English punk, that has gone to the fifth gear in its rhythm and rock.

The Vaccines went full throttle for the full show. Nothing will stop this band of British rockers from slowing down, and with more new music on the way we can probably expect to hear more from them soon. The Vaccines, they can’t quit.

By Sally Lewis