Reviews //

Review: The Vanns take Manning Bar

The Wollongong four-piece bring their brand of indie surf-rock to Manning.

After months of rescheduling, soulful surf rock four-piece The Vanns return to Sydney to bring a night of elation, supported by Tiarnie and Eliza & The Delusionals. 

Since their debut in a 2013 Wollongong band competition, The Vanns have matured into a treasured Australian indie-rock outfit. Drummer Logan Ritchie (from supporting act Tiarnie) accurately describes their sound as if Gang of Youths, Kings of Leon and Spacey Jane had a baby – which then grew up in Kiama. Recovering from a plethora of attacks on Sydney’s live music scene over the years, Manning Bar served as a perfect stage for The Vanns’ beloved fan engagement. Lead musicians Jimmy Vann (lead vocals, guitar) and Cameron Little (lead guitar, keys, vocals) chatted candidly to the crowd between songs, taking requests for endless encores and tossing out drinks. Watching The Vanns’ performance, you get the feeling their Southern coastal influences have created a degree of friendship amongst the crowd, something nostalgic, personal, and unfiltered.

The Vanns’ setlist was greeted with a packed dance floor from the concert’s opening at 10pm. Kicking off with ‘Red Eye Flight’, Jimmy Vann’s charisma combined with Little’s expressive guitar delivery cultivated a suitably turbulent moshpit. The close relationship the pair have forged has kindled some of their best material – on Saturday, they allowed the crowd to get in on the act. On theme with the opener and a staple throughout the show, red lights bathed the entire crowd. Manning Bar may be a low-capacity venue, but The Vanns certainly played it like a stadium. ‘Mother’ followed, featuring a grungier guitar solo and scream-able lyrics, all primed to get the crowd on their feet. 

After a few songs of crashing drums and resonant bass guitar, The Vanns slowed the set down to showcase their lyricism. Tracks such as ‘Chelsea’ and ‘Jasmine’ brought a slower, romantic lens to the set and invited the crowd to step back as the band sketched a portrait of failed relationships and tour life. Self-described as their “campfire ditty” ‘Jules Said’ was a memorable performance, heartfelt and bluntly written. Jimmy Vann’s vocal performance had undeniable power; while starkly different in style, his emotive voice has rightfully earned comparisons to the likes of Jeff Buckley. 

Photo by Jasmine Donnelly

Though crowd engagement was consistent overall, the second half of the set saw the band fully encompass the venue. ‘Keep My Cool’ brought back the shaggy surf rock of their earlier albums, with Cameron Little’s prolonged but superb solos dominating the stage. Manning Bar’s spherical viewing platforms were powerful in this sense, creating a sound that felt almost omnipresent. Crowd favourites here were ‘Red Light’ and ‘Feels Good Now’, their latest and arguably most polished releases. Many of The Vanns’ songs seem to follow a similar structure, starting with a catchy riff and anthemic lyrics, building up to a climax which arrives during Little’s solo. When silhouetted in white light as they were, it’s easy to understand why the crowd seems to ascend every time. It’s not subversive or groundbreaking, but authentic and effective. 

Overall, The Vanns’ set felt like a statement of intent. After lockdowns and delays, their performance was underscored by a sense of liberation. And with loyal fans of all ages selling out shows, The Vanns have the stamina and talent to deliver.