An established act hardly needing an introduction, The Vaccines can flex a plethora of indie-rock bangers from various eras of their group. What makes their live show different, though, is the fun they have with throwing new things into the mix, and the new fans that jump on board at every stage.
21-year-old Londoner Aziya paves the way for a boisterous evening with a fun pop-rock style led by a powerful vocal and exemplary stage presence, during which she quickly has the crowd chanting her name and taking photos; the former as part of a call and response jest and the latter in exchange for the hopes of winning a free t-shirt, Aziya shows a level of audience control far beyond her experience. Momentum picks up through a commandeering bass performance and belting vocal on unreleased tracks before the gritty finale of ‘Slip!’ ends Aziya’s short but sweet introduction to Newcastle.
Black Honey march onstage to Lizzo and blare straight into ‘I Like The Way You Die’, a hit track from their sophomore record ‘Written & Directed’. With a strong presence enrapturing listeners from the getgo, it is clear that the four-piece are a hyped act in their own right. Vibrant, layered and luxurious rock seems to be their niche and contrasting stage outfits of black leather and a blue Sound-of-Music-esque dress surmise the fusion of these elements perfectly. The accomplished band members lean back to allow Izzy Baxter Phillips to reveal some brief fragments of vulnerability between western-influenced moments like ‘All My Pride’ and the moody grunge of ‘Disinfect’. Dedicating set-closer ‘Run For Cover’ to all the women in the audience, this explosive outro and its familiar riff bring an empowering message to the bold rock sonic and concludes an excellent stage-warming party.
With two strong women having set the scene, Justin Young leads The Vaccines – a name heard far too much in other contexts since their last live tour – into 02 City Hall. The full room thunders with applause from young girls and older men alike, a testament to the band’s success in drawing in fresh faces throughout their ten-year career.
An immediate example of such consistent reinvigoration arrives in the powerful chorus of ‘Wanderlust’, a track from the band’s fifth studio album; a record that oozes pop frivolity but translates into a euphoric rock experience in the live arena. Such recent discography additions stand shoulder to shoulder with thrashing throwbacks like ‘Teenage Icon’, a cut which serves as a surprising reminder at how longer The Vaccines have been dropping hits. The blaring swagger of ‘Alone Star’ fits right in, and the subsequent casual rattle of ‘Post Break Up Sex’ executed without missing a beat feels a testament to their progress and maturity.
The ‘Planet Of The Youth’ EP dropped only a week prior to this northern show and is already worming it’s way into an exclusive setlist with the colourful single ‘Disaster Girl’. No transition is noticable between jumps across The Vaccine’s history, and that can likely be attributed to the amount of sheer fun that singer Justin Young and guitarist Freddie Cowan and clearly having at the front of the stage. Even slower moments like ‘El Paso’ maintain this enthusiasm through cracks of vulnerability, and ‘Headphone Baby’ is perhaps the peak of this; a single that began a dramatically different release for the band becomes a pivotal live moment and “it’s good to see ya” is not a phrase they utter lightly, making it obvious why ‘Back In Love City’ was not described as a lockdown record.
‘Jump Off The Top’ shows once again that a long-time live favourite can feel right at home on album five, leading into the end-of-show fake out of ‘If You Wanna’. The band instead choose to close on a more subtle and heartfelt moment (‘All In White’) and emotions ride high as they walk away, telling fans they already can’t wait to return – and just minutes after they do so, we can’t wait to see them again.