The Vines, Astoria, London (no stars)
Monday 28 April 2003
So why all the fuss over The Vines? This time last year, they were being hailed by a hysterical music press as the saviours of rock'n'roll (when will they ever learn?). In a few short months, the Australian punk-pop quartet went from day jobs at McDonald's to appearing on MTV and The Late Show with David Letterman. Variously described as "the Sydney Strokes" and "the new Nirvana", The Vines, it grieves me to report, possess neither the panache of the former nor the depth of the latter. On stage, they're nothing short of a disaster.
The singer, Craig Nicholls, a man with cheekbones to rival Liz Hurley's and a haircut to match The Monkees' Davy Jones – is the major irritant here. If there exists a manual on how to behave like a rock star, he has surely read it. Within 10 minutes of arriving on stage, he's playing his guitar from the back of his head, bouncing off the speaker stack and wriggling around on the floor like a recalcitrant toddler. Later, he kicks the daylights out of the drumkit, although not so hard that the weary-looking roadies can't put it back together in a few seconds.
Nicholls is less a genuine front man than a Spinal Tap-esque parody of one, but his rock'n'roll histrionics would be just about bearable if there were songs to back him up. But, alas, we hear only two decent tracks all night – "Outathaway" and "Highly Evolved", the single that took them to No 3 in the charts. By "decent", I mean that they just about raise the temperature among the crowd. Classics they ain't.
The Vines come with two distinctive musical styles – fast-paced garage rock in the vein of The White Stripes, though not nearly as good, and hazy psychedelic rock of the variety that had Kula Shaker laughed off stage less than a decade ago.
During "Mary Jane", a dreary ode to weed that seems to last an eternity (clever, non?), Nicholls elects to screech and shriek like a pterodactyl homing in on its prey.
"Homesick", another pseudo-psychedelic dirge, at least stays true to its title. I yearn for home all the way through it and, judging by the punters scurrying for the exits, I'm not the only one. The Vines positively maul Outkast's "Ms Jackson", with Nicholls alternating between a rumbly growl and a nails-down-a-blackboard falsetto. By the end of the show, the singer's wailing, flailing and look-at-me posturing is more than I can take, and violence is on my mind. The saviours of rock'n'roll? God help us.
The Vines play the University of Northumbria, Newcastle, tomorrow; Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, on Wednesday; and Brixton Academy, London SW4, on Thursday
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