LIVE: The Vines
Four songs into their much-anticipated Toronto show, The Vines performed their scaled-down version of OutKast's "Ms. Jackson."
They could be excused if many in the audience were thinking, at least metaphorically, of another hip-hop classic: Public Enemy's "Don't Believe The Hype."
There was a buzz emanating throughout the Tequila Lounge on this evening, but it was more the din of disinterested conversation than it was cheers for the four onstage Aussies. Granted, The Vines had a tough crowd to deal with, as a significant portion of Toronto's rock-music cognoscenti was in attendance. Many onlookers had undoubtedly read (or heard of) the gushing reviews from Britain's New Musical Express, which described The Vines as a timeless amalgam of Nirvana and the Beatles.
That the band didn't live up to the hype shouldn't matter. It's typical for the Brits to blow anything out of proportion and The Vines have been scarred by the NME's branding iron of approval. Frontman Craig Nicholls is not the second coming of Kurt Cobain, and lucky for him he isn't. His guttural screams on this evening sounded more like benign adolescent angst and less the product of a truly tortured soul. Likewise, the band's trippy neo-psychedelic arrangements and raging, minimalist rock were not earth shattering revelations, at least not for this seasoned Toronto audience. Put quite simply, The Vines were ripe for critical picking.
That said, let's take The Vines for what they are: A young, extremely promising rock band. Highly Evolved, their upcoming major-label debut, is a great rock record. It displays a sense of musical maturity that transcends the band members' lack of professional experience. Is it the next Revolver or Nevermind? Hardly, but it is a damn catchy album, conjuring up a vintage sound that indeed invokes elements of the Beatles, as well as the Stooges and MC5. By virtue of the latter influences, not to mention Nicholls' penchant to lay out a healthy scream, the Nirvana references are inevitable.
It would've helped the band if many in the audience had heard the album. The Tequila Lounge's cozy confines didn't do justice to their sound; this is a band that's groomed for the bombastic environment of a stadium or amphitheatre. The show also had its lumps: Nicholls' voice wavered during some of the quieter moments and the tempo was a bit dodgy on songs such as the ska-flavoured "Factory." As for the cover of "Ms. Jackson," it came off as a plodding effort.
In the end, what mattered most were the original songs. The performance may have been less than stellar, but the rudiments of great songs still shone through. Anyone who left this show disappointed would be wise to curb the expectations, pick up the album when it gets released and catch this band when they return later this summer. They may see The Vines in a whole new light.
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