The Vines / The Open - Manchester Academy 1 - 8.5.04

The last time the Vines played Manchester it was a defiant statement of rock n roll. Everything that's loved and hated about rock rolled into one and a half hours of self destruction with each song seeing Craig Nichols contorting his body into undiscovered shapes and smashing his guitar around like a petulant child doing his first E at a party hosted by Jude Law and Sadie Frost. Chaos is too weak a statement and in truth its the real reason why tonight's show at the Academy is such a wild card, which Craig are we going to get - the sweet Craig who you want to cuddle, feed him Happy Meals and tell him he doesn't really have to tour? Or the destructive Craig who ends up in turmoil because its not just a petulant kicking rock star, but someone with severe mental problems.

First up though are The Open who will probably never end up with mental problems or never reach the dizzy heights of the Vines but are just a fine example of British indie rock in the year 2004. Taking in the spacey trippy elements of early Verve and the songwriting sensibilities of the Jam and The Police it's a combination which resonates with the people rather than the critics. "Just Live To Learn" is a single full to the brim of the clichés, but there's hints of epic Oasis ala "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" and previous single "Close My Eyes" is an infectious blast of pop. Intricate melodies meet Motown bass lines and each and every chorus soars and tonight there's no doubting there's something there...whether that can ever cross over to a stunning debut remains to be seen.

As soon as The Vines hit the stage it's clear its a different Vines than the last time, at least for one night only. "Outtamyway", a beast of a tune, kicks in as the lights blind and Craig's demented screams make perfect sense. It's controlled madness where the band are as unsure as the audience as to whether it could unfurl at any moment, but while that cusp of danger is in place it's turned into something raw and beautiful. Despite a universal kicking from the critics "Winning Days" is an album which live lives up to the hype of "Highly Evolved" and with every song played except "Rainfall" it was a victory over adversity. "Ride" is pure Vines by numbers, but with nearly 2000 people lacerating their throats as the chorus kicks there's an infectious buzz which hasn't been seen since Nirvana. "TV Pro" leads up to the encore with the limitations of quiet verse / loud chorus being stretched beyond believe with "Awwwoooooowww" and "La La La La, La La La" brimming with hope and frustration.

Even the quieter moments seem genuinely touching whereas previously they've meandered. "Mary Jane" from the debut album sits side by side "Autumn Shade II", "Sun Child" and the title track "Winning Days". Personally though "She's Got Something To Say To Me" is a personal highlight and the best song the Beatles never wrote, why the hell this doesn't get released as a single baffles me as its the best song Nichols has laid down on tape to date....and tonight it shines above the likes of "Get Free" and "Highly Evolved".

Tonight, the Vines lived up to the tag as one of the best bands in the world. What happens tomorrow and day after is purely down to the way Nichols is feeling that night, which is frustrating but ultimately what rock and roll is about. Rock and roll isn't about the safe and predictable. It's about danger and the unexpected and that's what the Vines have by the bucket load. As they scream on the closer, F**k the World!!!

Alex McCann

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