A feel for just where Brit boy band contenders the Vamps stand in the current hierarchy of teen-approved crush material can be summed up by the presence of former X-Factor favourites Union J.
The Vamps - Castle Esplanade, Edinburgh
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Once upon a time (way back at the dawn of humanity in 2013) it was the Unions who could boast a top two album in the charts, but the Vamps stole their thunder and their chart-placing, and so Union J – all of whom are in their mid-twenties – were in the supporting role here.
Meanwhile, with only one member (guitarist James McVey) barely a few weeks into his twenties, the Vamps are currently masters of all they survey. Which in this case was the drizzle-hit bank of seating arranged before Edinburgh Castle at the first of this year’s Castle Concerts. The quartet are a more youthful proposition than usually occupies one of these slots, and the large gaps throughout the tiers of higher seats suggest they’re pretty far from achieving the level of pan-generational appeal required for this type of show.
The place appeared to be largely populated by hugely enthusiastic teenage girls and indulgent mums happy to join in the fun. Most would have come to this most futuristically marketed of projects not by buying the group’s music or studiously following their television and radio appearances, but by subscribing to the YouTube channel which broadcast their early cover versions before they’d released a note.
These beginnings were referenced here with sugar-rush bursts through Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk, Taylor Swift’s Shake It Up and Sum 41’s In Too Deep, as well as their recent hit and unlikely Simon & Garfunkel rap makeover Oh Cecilia (Breaking My Heart). With the four members – singer Brad Simpson, McVey, Aberdeen-born bassist Connor Ball and drummer Tristan Evans – arranged in a diamond formation and apparently playing their own instruments, there was at least an effort to inject more visual energy and dynamism than most of their contemporaries might manage.
Their own songs were also lively and memorable, including Wild Heart, the evening’s closest thing to a ballad Risk It all and Can We Dance (its sharp opening line “I talk a lot of shit when I’m drinking, baby” about as near as it gets to boy band punk these days). It would be churlish to say they did anything but give the crowd what they wanted, but as they drove through the audience in a blacked-out people carrier seconds after leaving the stage, the suspicion is that what that audience wants is time-limited by their own youth. Just look at Union J.