Concert Review: The Vaccines


Lead singer Justin Young swaggered out on the *SCAPE Ground Theatre stage, every step heavy with liquor. His 3 band mates trailed behind him, bassist Árni Arnason even clutching a bottle of Stella. No preamble. No introductions. No ‘hello, Singapore, it’s great to be here’. Just the heady first note of “Handsome”, and we all knew we were down with a serious case of The Vaccines fever.

Often heralded as the lovechild of The Strokes and The Ramones, 5-year-old The Vaccines bring their guitar-heavy and energetic retro sound back to our shores. Their angsty, self-indulgent lyrics like the kind you find in “Post Break-Up Sex”, set to toe-thumping melodies turn every youth’s “bad situation”, like getting rejected by the girl you fancy or your local 7-11 running out of your usual cigarettes, into a cause for celebration.

Having just dropped their third album, English Graffiti, in May, the 4-piece English indie rock outfit had only just concluded their Euro tour in Oslo on October 19 before coming here. The Vaccines returned to Singapore on November 4 promising a stronger and more polished set than the one they had here for their opening for Kasabian back in 2012. And the band certainly made good on their word. They performed in Brisbane on November 7, and start their UK tour 12 days later.

The Vaccines SG

Besides lead singer Young, and bassist Arnason, the band consists of lead guitarist Freddie Cowan and drummer Pete Robertson. They’re also joined by touring member Timothy Lanham who plays just about everything else.

The 21-song set came without fanciful lights or trippy graphics and we were thankful. Even Young barely spoke, only interjecting the music with short introductions of the next song. He didn’t really need to, anyway, because he fully engaged the crowd with his energetic performance. The concert focused solely on the music: a glorious mish-mash of their earliest and latest songs. “Handsome” (off their latest album, English Graffiti) kicked off the night, launching the crowd, already well lubricated by the beers being sold within the gig venue, headlong into a head-banging frenzy, followed by their very first equally raucous single, “Wreckin Bar (Ra Ra Ra)”. “Minimal Affection” was followed immediately by another one of their older singles, “Tiger Blood” (much to the delight of their older fans), and “20/20” trailed behind crowd favorite “Teenage Icon”, which was greeted with screams so loud that Young’s voice could barely be heard. We don’t think we’ve ever heard 30-something-year-old women (and their boyfriends) shriek like that before. It was this deliberate, almost poetic pacing of songs that makes the heart of a true Vaccines fan (full disclosure: this UrbanWire writer is certainly one) ache.

The Vaccines_Justin Young

Young’s known for his showy on-stage persona. A true performer, he didn’t waste his time on stage. By jumping up in front of Robertson’s drum set, cheekily wagging his finger during songs (“Moving on / We don’t have a lot in common”), or speak-singing through powerful lyrics (“Have you earned your stripes?”), Young channeled his entire being into his performances. It felt as though you were invited to an intimate private showcase with the band, with Young being himself and, really, doing whatever he felt like on stage. Simply being in the audience, despite being only one in the sea of slightly over 100, felt so special. His band mates also kept the energy at its peak. Cowan shredded his riffs like his life depended on it, and Arnason’s well-timed hair flips were always picture perfect. It was a party on stage.


In a rare quiet moment, Young, still showing no signs that he had 3 throat operations to fix his vocal polyps, returns to the stage alone to start the 3-song encore. Armed with an acoustic guitar, he strummed away, singing a stripped down heart-wrenching rendition of the originally playful Come Of Age album opener “No Hope”, shedding a tear at the end of it.

When can we sign up for our next shot? 

Set list:

  1. Handsome
  2. Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)
  3. Ghost Town
  4. Dream Lover
  5. Wetsuit
  6. Minimal Affection
  7. Tiger Blood
  8. Bad Moon
  9. Blow It Up
  10. Post Break-Up Sex
  11. (All Afternoon) In Love
  12. Melody Calling
  13. Give Me A Sign
  14. Teenage Icon
  15. 20/20
  16. I Always Knew
  17. If You Wanna
  18. All In White


  1. No Hope
  2. Blow Your Mind
  3. Nørgaard