By Martina Merenda
With their almost-all sold out UK tour, The Vaccines make their explosive comeback to Cardiff University’s own Students’ Union. The sold-out concert took place in the Great Hall, and words cannot fully explain what I had the honour to witness on the evening of the 1st February. The expression “times flies by when you’re having fun” was undoubtedly coined after a gig, because the four hours spent in the company of Jesse Jo Stark, Hatchie and The Vaccines passed way too quickly.
Los Angeles-born Jesse Jo Stark has the task to get the ball rolling, and she does it with her unique style, that fuses musical influences from the 1950s and 1960s, with provocative punk rock. The young American (pun intended) supported The Vaccines on their American tour in autumn 2018 and is currently on the road with them on their UK tour, and she knows how to warm up an audience. Her voice, reminds me of Lana Del Rey, quickly capturing the attention of everyone in The Great Hall. Her cover of Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 hit ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’ was a delight for the ears, as she set the bar high, casting a spell on the crowd that would last for her entire performance. Even if her time on stage was brief, the response of the audience to Jesse Jo Stark was incredible. With songs like ‘Breakfast With Lou’, ‘Dandelion and Driftwood’, Stark’s presence on The Great Hall’s stage was a delight and I am sure that the rest of the public will agree with me when I say that she was a pleasant discovery for the Cardiff audience, who will surely not forget the Californian singer’s punk energy.
The task of keeping up the atmosphere created by Jesse Jo Stark was assigned to Hatchie. The Australian singer’s much softer vibe was a great contrast to the Californian’s energetic act. With her Cranberries-like sound, her 90s inspired indie pop-rock, Hatchie made the Great Hall relax a bit while still keeping the vibe set by Jesse Jo Stark and continuing warming up the crowd for The Vaccines. The audience was almost shivering in anticipation for the main act to come on stage, the excitement could be felt in the air as Hatchie played her last song and got off stage.
As the lights went off and Queen’s 1984 hit, ‘I Want To Break Free’ started to play, the audience went wild: the wait was finally over. The roar of the crowd singing ‘I Want To Break Free’ greeted the return of The Vaccines in Cardiff. The London-based band started their act with ‘Your Love Is My Favourite Band’ and quickly moved onto ‘Teenage Icon’. The Great Hall went crazy as the band played song after song and stopped briefly to talk to the crowd and saying the usual pleasantries such as “it’s good to be back Cardiff” and “We’re very happy to be here”. Their setlist, a mix of hits old and new, was a masterpiece. The smiles exchange between lead singer Justin Young and guitarist Freddie Cowan seemed authentic in seeing the crowd singing along to every song. ‘Nørgaard’, ‘Teenage Icon’, and ‘Your Love Is My Favourite Band’ made everyone go crazy as people started jumping up and down.
Time flew by, and it was time for Rolling Stones to start, the perfect ending for the ideal gig…except that it was not done yet! The band got briefly off stage, only to return with a new found energy to perform ‘Put It On A T-Shirt’, ‘All In White’, and finished the night on the notes of ‘Nightclub’, wishing the audience a good night and going off stage for real this time.
The Vaccines, with support act Jesse Jo Stark and Hatchie, are the definition of “go big or go home” and are worth seeing live as they always give a hundred per cent in their performance. Be sure to not miss them out next time they tour in a city next to you!