red lights

Too Much, Too Soon

The Vines
The Rave
Milwaukee, WI
Dec. 5, 2002
The Vines The Vines

Review by Tony Bonyata
Photos by Phil Bonyata

Don't you just hate it when things don't pan out like you'd hoped?
Case in point; after the release of The Vines smart debut Highly Evolved this Australian quartet seemed like one of the true deliverers of the new renaissance of rock. But like some of their other rock revivalist contemporaries, such as The Strokes - who also released one stunning little debut, The Vines proved that as a live act they've got a lot to learn. Or maybe a lot to forget, as the case may be.
From being prematurely thrust onto the coveted cover spot of Rolling Stone magazine to their current headlining slot on "MTV2's Handpicked Tour" it seems that its all come a bit too early to be justified. While their album is filled with punchy aggression and irresistible Beatle-esque melodies and harmonies, their onstage treatment of these same songs were either overdone or just plain flat.
The Vines One of the reasons might be how hard the band's leader tries to be so cool.
Guitarist, vocalist and main attraction Craig Nicholls is, without question, the focal point of the band, both musically- considering all of these compositions are his - and visually. But despite a job well done on record with well-crafted songs that were believably played out, his onstage shenanigans came off too forced and predictable. Clad in jeans, tight black shirt and mop of tousled hair Nicholls snarled, screamed and posed like the band's Rolling Stone cover shoot had never ended. He also threw in just about every rebellious stage antic done before him - from Kurt Cobain's stage dive from atop the drum riser to Pete Townshend's guitar tossing to Iggy Pop's sloppy strip tease - all with a calculated agenda. The attitude was suppose to be that of unbridled punk, but instead seemed well-choreographed and smacked of insincerity.
On the other side of the coin, however, was the rest of The Vines who were reduced to the shadows of the stage, more than likely, to hide their less than enthusiastic stage presence. The band looked so listless and uninterested, in fact, that it further amplified Nicholls 'hey, everybody, look at the cool snarl I'm making now' schtick.
The band's short set was mainly comprised of songs from Highly Evolved, such as the title track which saw Nicholls trading in his coolly detached vocals from the album for an unwarranted crude scream which ultimately marred the number. The band also turned in perfunctory renditions of their rebellious hits "Get Free" and "Outtathaway" as well as the mellower numbers "Autumn Shade" and "Mary Jane" to a minor amount of audience fanfare. The two highlights that the band turned in that evening - a powerful take of "In The Jungle" and the swirling punk of "Ain't No Room" - were also unfortunately sabotaged by the aping pretentiousness of their frontman.
Even Nicholls' timing was off as he defiantly ripped his shirt off during a soggy cover of Outkast's "Ms. Jackson," where the band turned this once soulful hip-hop gem into a tired rock ballad.
On record The Vines sounds like they might be onto something special, but as a live act they prove it's all been done before...and done a helluva lot better.

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