The Vines, Astoria, London

Astoria, London

It would seem a terrible error of judgment to throw your guitar to the ground after your first song, but that is what Craig Nicholls does. Nicholls, who gives the impression of a skulking adolescent, drunk on the idea that he is some kind of prodigy, is the Vines; certainly his solid, silent bandmates appear bereft of even a communal personality.

Among Australia's least scintillating musical exports, the Vines have sold half a million albums in the US, with respectable sales here, on the back of a bowdlerised, banal take on Nirvana's quiet/loud aesthetic that, live, reveals dubious links with 1970s stadium rock.

Nicholls is cast as the tortured lightning rod for a generation's pain, so he sprawls on the floor and screams into the mic almost constantly. But this is not pain, it is a simulacrum of pain offering neither visceral thrills, insight, poetry nor catharsis. It is like watching a tantrum.

The Vines have two songs: chugging mosh-pit anthems like In the Jungle and Highly Evolved (not something that applies here) and plodding ballads like the interminable Mary Jane, passable on record, turgid live and burdened with infinitely pedestrian solos.

When Nicholls does manage to wring anything remotely impressive from his guitar, he strikes a series of ridiculous poses, peers adenoidally through his mop of hair and generally fails to grasp the difference between narcissism (that glorious staple of the rock icon) and attention-seeking.

Halfway through the set, he peels off his T-shirt for no obvious reason, revealing pudgy puppy fat given a sickly bloom by the blue light. Then he puts it back on. Later, he threatens to dive into the crowd, but doesn't. He trashes his guitar and the drum kit before the encore, then repeats the process afterwards.

A witless cover of OutKast's Miss Jackson is the evening's nadir. Luckily, the Vines play for barely an hour: more than enough of Nicholls's voice (with a range stretching from nasal whine to caterwaul), and the meatheaded hack and bash of his band. A dismal, joyless, depressing evening.


David Peschek

The GuardianTramp

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