Tonight frontman Justin Young seemed to want to signify how far he has come from his clean-cut former incarnation JJ Pistolet by growing his hair and beard out to caveman-like shaggyness.
Wearing double denim, roaring into the mic and leaping about in front of the biggest audience the Vaccines have ever commanded (a cool 10,000 people) he appeared anachronistic and could just as easily have been fronting a 1970s rock band as one that was actually founded in 2010.
Throughout an hour-long set Young and his three bandmates strummed, drummed and pounded their feet, playing into the hands of the thronging crowd by inciting moshing, jumping and some serious sing-a-longs. New single “No Hope” was followed with a rollicking “Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” which compounded comparisons of the Vaccines to the Strokes and the Ramones with its core-shaking, groaning multi-layered guitar.
It is tribute to the band’s success at audience-management that things remained relatively calm within a venue that was, frankly, oversold and ill-equipped to deal with the vast swathes of people cutting their way through it. At previous Alexandra Palace gigs I’ve seen how quickly the combination of booze and festival-style staging within a large interior space (incidentally, impossible to see anything if you’re at the back of the crowd) can escalate into violence.
The doors had opened at 6.30pm so by the time the band appeared just before 10pm there was a noticeable number staggering drunkenly around. Cups of beer were chucked high into the air, drenching the crowds beneath them, and at the end of the night I saw a handful of individuals fellows lying prone in the Palm Court, comatose or presumably too pissed to stand.
I witnessed a few dozen vote with their feet and leave after only a handful of songs. But as the Vaccines trilled their way through the best part of their number 1 album Come of Age the rest of the crowd seemed pleased as punch.
Young turned on the charm and smouldered his way through “Wetsuit”, commanding the biggest cheers of the night for “Teenage Icon” and “Post Break-up Sex”. He’s a great showman, but not much of a talker. Occasionally gracing us with profundities such as “Thank you very much” and “I love you” to disproportionately appreciative squeals of delight.
Ending a too-short set leaving us wanting more, they returned for a three-song encore of “Bad Mood”, “Wolfpack” and “Norgaard”.