Concert Review: The Vaccines, San Cisco @ The Phoenix, Toronto, Canada

The Vaccines are currently enjoying their first headlining tour of North America. They’re touring their second album, Come of Age, which topped the UK charts last year, giving the band their first UK number 1 album. And to think that I was pretty proud when I recently correctly guessed how many jelly beans were in a jar – clearly, I need to aim higher.

The Vaccines @ The Phoenix, Toronto (copyright Martin Bazyl / PeteHatesMusic)

Opening for The Vaccines were Aussie indie poppers, San Cisco, who you might know from previous PeteHatesMusic posts about them. What could the crowd expect from the Vaccines? Find out in our review, which hopefully features less lame references than that lead-in sentence.

Knowing a handful of San Cisco tunes, I somewhat knew what to expect. The rest of their catalogue seemed to consist of a lot of slow pop songs, somewhat similar to The Kooks. They have nicely constructed songs that could sometimes do with a better chorus.

The band played Wild Things, with the chorus sung by drummer Scarlett Stevens. Their penultimate song was Rocket Ship, with its cool drum rhythms. The final track was Awkward, which sounds like Do You Wanna See The World by – yup, The Kooks. The band was generally well received and have a nice collection of pop tracks.

The Vaccines, led by singer Justin Young and rounded out by Árni Hjörvar (bass), Freddie Cowan (guitar) and Pete “awesome first name” Robertson (drums), took the stage (not literally) around 9:15. They walked out to a recording of Cum On Feel the Noize, then launched into the loud, fast, and punishing (if not lyrically depressing) tune No Hope.

They then followed the opener of their recent album with the opener from their debut album – Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra). Justin led the crowd through a clap along, when he wasn’t busy wandering from side to side and then off to the side of the stage. His vocals were slightly over the map, in that he was nearly screaming at some parts, but then dialed it back to almost talking, which is not quite how they did the track in the studio.

The Vaccines @ The Phoenix, Toronto (copyright Martin Bazyl / PeteHatesMusic)

In Your Face! The Vaccines @ The Phoenix, Toronto (copyright Martin Bazyl / PeteHatesMusic)

Wetsuit / non-album track, Tiger Blood was next, followed by A Lack of Understanding. This track was both scaled back vocally and frantic at other parts.

The fifth track was Wetsuit, which received a lot of screams, especially from the female representation in the crowd. Apparently they like putting wetsuits on (come on, come on).

The upbeat second album single, Teenage Icon was played after Wetsuit, which led into Under Your Thumb. The Vaccines were not much for banter, and were just powering through the set.

“Thanks for waiting out in the cold all day. Hopefully we can warn you up. I’m feeling kind of warm. There’s a lot of warmth in this room” Justin said to the crowd after Under Your Thumb.

Next up was Aftershave Ocean, and then Ghost Town, which the crowd seemed to dig.

The Vaccines @ The Phoenix, Toronto (copyright Martin Bazyl / PeteHatesMusic)

“You know, this is our first ever North American headlining tour. And our first ever North American show was Toronto. This is a special place for us.” Cue rapturous applause. “I have a sore throat so I want you to sing for me. I know it’s a Monday but sing like its a Friday.” Since I was drinking like it was a Friday, I figured this would not be a problem. And bad news about the potential sore throat, which is what led the Vaccines to previously cancel their last North American tour.

The band launched into Post Break-Up Sex, which was well received by the crowd. All in White was played immediately after, with the crowd reaching fever pitch due to the string of great songs by the band. Justin didn’t sing the last part, and urged the crowd to, even pitching in with the line to be sure we knew it.

“You’re very fucking loud Toronto. Louder than the States anyway.” The crowd obviously went nuts, and I prepared some scathing remark about pandering to the crowd, only to have Justin say “Oldest trick in the book.” That’s redemption enough for me.

Before Change of Heart Pt. 2, Justin noted that “It’s a love song. You can dance if you want.” I did not dance.

Possibly my favourite track by The Vaccines, Blow It Up was next, with the crowd chanting “Freddie, Freddie” prior to the song, with Arni piping in and saying “Árni, Árni!” Justin demonstrated more of his restrained vocals in the 2nd verse, which is a bit worrisome since this is only the start of the tour.

The Vaccines @ The Phoenix, Toronto (copyright Martin Bazyl / PeteHatesMusic)

The crowd were into the next track right from the get go, as the band played the best song on the new album – I Always Knew.

The Vaccines closed out the regular set with If You Wanna, which was much faster than the album version, leading to the crowd clapping along and generally going nuts.

Drummer Pete Robinson emerged by himself after the encore, and treated us to a little drum solo before the rest of the guys emerged. This led into Wolf Pack. “I know I said it before but my mind is fucking blown how many of you are here. I honestly thought we’d be playing to 50 people.” Well, if you thought that, then maybe you should’ve booked my backyard and not the Phoenix.

Upcoming single Bad Mood was next, followed by the last track, Nørgaard.

The band made it through 18 songs in only 60 minutes, including a short break before the encore. The Vaccines excel at short, catchy rock and pop tracks, and demonstrated that the new songs are probably better live than on the album. Hopefully Justin’s vocals survive the tour, as the band are worth catching live. Check out even more photos of The Vaccines on our Facebook page.

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The Vaccines @ The Phoenix, Toronto (copyright Martin Bazyl / PeteHatesMusic)

Staring contest, and I’m gonna fuckin’ win! The Vaccines @ The Phoenix, Toronto (copyright Martin Bazyl / PeteHatesMusic)

PHM Rating for San Cisco: 7.0 out of 10
PHM Rating for The Vaccines: 8.0 out of 10

Setlist for The Vaccines @ The Phoenix, Toronto, Canada – February 4, 2013

1 – No Hope
2 – Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)
3 – Tiger Blood
4 – A Lack of Understanding
5 – Wetsuit
6 – Teenage Icon
7 – Under Your Thumb
8 – Aftershave Ocean
9 – Ghost Town
10 – Post Break-Up Sex
11 – All in White
12 – Change of Heart Pt. 2
13 – Blow It Up
14 – I Always Knew
15 – If You Wanna


16 – Wolf Pack
17 – Bad Mood
18 – Nørgaard

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