by Marisa Ruiz (@MarisaVictoria)
This post was intended to be a concert review of the rousing performance put on by The Vaccines at Lincoln Hall this past Wednesday night; but that same showcase of talent has led this post to take on a new purpose. It’s part show recap, part rant and partly a letter to Chicago’s concert goers to not take a kick-ass performance for granted.
Ask anyone who attended the sold out show and you’d likely hear variations of the same summary. The band of four rockers out of West London put on a killer show – except they didn’t play an encore, leaving show-goers puzzled, pissed off or disappointed. I spoke to sources on tour with the band who confirmed that there were indeed three songs prepared for the encore (“Wolf Pack”, “Bad Mood” and “Norgaard”) and that Chicago was the only city on the tour thus far that didn’t get the encore performance.
The sequence of events went like this; The Vaccines rocked the stage from the very first song by kicking off the set with an enthusiastic performance of “No Hope”. Frontman Justin Young then delivered a no holds barred blazing run of “Wreckin’ Bar” that captured the mischievous spirit of punk rock so well, Joey Ramone would applaud from the grave. And the thrilling performances didn’t stop there. It was hit after hit of infectious tracks from both their debut and sophomore albums, each performed with the commitment and raw energy you hope for when you pay to see a band you’ve been obsessed with: “Teenage Icon”, “Wet Suit”, “Aftershave Ocean”, “Ghost Town”, “Post Breakup Sex” “I Always Knew”. Young snarled and lunged; Freddie Cowan tackled every guitar solo with second-natured finesse; bassist Arni Arnason never missed a beat; and Pete Robertson upheld the high energy gallop of drumbeats that typically summons non-stop bouncing and excitable head shaking.
Despite the band bringing it the whole way through their set, the crowd just wasn’t matching the energy. Sure, there were people here and there who were entirely unashamed to show their faces were being rocked off – but far fewer than expected for a band that has blown up as much as this one. I looked up to the balcony a few times and people were behaving more like they were in the box seats at the opera than at a rock show. When the band’s set ended and they exited the stage, everyone remained in place for the encore they expected. Some people tried to start up some chants and clapping, but nothing really took hold for longer than a few seconds. Before you know it, the stage lights came on and band roadies began breaking things down. A clear message had been sent that there was a window of opportunity for an encore to happen and that we had just missed it. My first thought was that perhaps someone in the band wasn’t feeling well, but I later learned that wasn’t the case. I also learned that all the other cities on the tour thus far have had an explosive response to the band’s set – and that (unbeknownst to us at the time) the Chicago crowd that night just had a drastically different energy level.
Needless to say, I attend many concerts – and this is the first one in a decade of attending shows where the headlining band didn’t do an encore. I have to admit that I was actually kind of irritated at first. They didn’t start playing until close to 10:30 p.m. on a weekday night, when most everyone in attendance likely had to get up early for work the next day. The more I thought about it though, the more I do respect them for the choice to remind that crowd that encores should not necessarily be automatically presumed. After all, the origin of the encore is that it only happened when a crowd so delighted by a performance would happily make a fuss to show appreciation and request more. It was the first headlining tour for The Vaccines in the U.S., who have brought us two consecutive rock-solid albums, neither of which were stuffed with any filler material. Then they tore the stage up in all their sweaty glory for every person in the room – but we just didn’t mirror the energy.
Maybe we’ve become really spoiled here in Chicago. Every up-and-comer, breakout-star-to-be and established act comes through our city. Cities like Miami don’t attract anywhere near half the acts that we do because they only have smaller hole-in-the-wall dives for bands to play in or they have giant arenas. They miss out on all the acts that we see booked at “in-between-sized” venues like Lincoln Hall, Metro or Congress. We’re incredibly lucky to catch many remarkable artists in a setting the size of a place like Lincoln Hall. I recall getting to see Foster The People there in 2011 and thinking that it would be the last time anyone in Chicago would ever see them play a venue that size. Sure enough, they went on to rock massive crowds all around the world. I had the same thought about The Vaccines playing for us at Lincoln Hall. All signs indicate they are bound for continued greatness and here’s hoping Chicago will accept them with well-earned wild energy and applause the next time they come through. Goodness knows we’ll damn right have to if we want that fucking encore!