It’s been close to two years since The Virginmarys graced Glasgow with their presence. In the intervening time, they’ve released their new album, Divides, alongside a handful of shows but tonight is a different kettle of fish. Tonight is the start of their latest UK tour.
The last time the trio played to a Glasgow crowd, it was the night before their legendary Manchester Ritz performance. I was living a different life. Once where I had been King of my world, I was watching, powerlessly, as it was stripped away and it wasn’t until that night at the O2 ABC2 that I realised I needed that gig. It took time to balance everything but I’m back to where I’m comfortable, living in my peace. The fact that the band was also playing the same venue as I first saw them in (after many near-misses for years beforehand); I knew this was going to be a special one.
Meeting up with some of my fellow Fan Community members before the gig, we lodged ourselves in the front row, grins plastered on our faces as we were some of the first through the door. It wasn’t long before the first band took to the stage and I don’t think any of us knew what to expect from them. Firing through half a dozen or so songs, Critics were determined to make the most of their opening slot. Two days on and I’m still not entirely sure how to describe them.
Funky and melodic, they didn’t grab my attention but I did notice a germ of something good within their performance and their music. I think the biggest thing was they felt a little out of place. Had they been on a bill with similar sounding artists, I think they’d have found more welcome ears with myself. One thing which did stand out for me was the second song of the night “Lawsuit”, possessing a very similar instrumentation to “Paradise City”, I half-expected to look up and a Les Paul-wielding man with a top hat to be in front of me.
Following that, Moses followed suit and wasted no time in trying to impress on their first UK tour. With punk, indie and alternative leanings, it’s generally not my cup of tea but their energy enraptured me. Shrugging off the cancellation of their Saturday slot at Download, you’d be hard-pressed to nail which of the four-piece had been struck by illness. Imbuing their music with their youthful energy, it’s a shock that the band has only been together just over a year. From the first to the last note, there was an exceptional tightness in their performance and were unrelenting in their assault. It’s been quite some time since a support act has impressed me the way Moses did. If you’ve yet to attend one of the remaining dates of the tour, ensure you’re there to catch these guys.
As the air raid siren announces the arrival of the headliners, the volume from the crowd raises exponentially and the band launch straight into “I Wanna Take You Home”, frontman and guitarist Ally Dickaty takes advantage of the space around him, bouncing across the stage before tearing into the vocals. My initial worry of the gig was Ally’s vocals being muddy as I’ve found it’s a common problem in Stereo when I’ve been here in the past but from the minute he opened his mouth, it was crystal clear.
During the last couple of times I’ve seen the guys in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed there’s a new sense of confidence in their performances. Ally’s more keen to spring around the stage when he’s not focused on his vocals, Danny Dolan hits his drums with a new level of intensity and bassist Matt Rose eager to deliver back vocals and harmonies as he picks his massive bass lines. Having a new album in their arsenal clearly agrees with them, their excitement and passion visible for all to see.
Filling a set which clocked in just under the hour and a half mark and a colossal nineteen songs from two albums, Danny remarked after the show that it was the longest set they’ve ever done. I’d love to know what they’re putting in the water in Macclesfield as each show is better than the last, having seen them at their recent album launch show in Manchester, and even more recently at Camden Rocks, it’s some amount of work they’re putting in every night to make such a feat possible. With the majority of both King of Conflict and Divides making an appearance, it was a well-balanced set with some older numbers given a slightly new approach. The cast of faces in the crowd show their broad appeal from your indie kids to your die-hard rockers and everything in between, once again showing how many flavours are injected into the music.
“Lost Weekend” was given an outing, noticeably missing during the album launch shows. Following the frenetic “Free To Do Whatever They Say”, it was proof that no matter what happens, the minute I hear the riff, it has the power to stop me in my tracks. Having been bouncing from the start, it was good to take a breather before the barrage of “For You My Love”, “Bang Bang Bang”, “Push the Pedal” and “Motherless Land”. However, before any of that happened, one of the true highlights of the night came in the form of “Moths to a Flame” as my friends and I linked arms and swayed together for the duration of the song as the band sombrely played their song of finding and holding onto hope in a dark place.
If there were any first night jitters, the band ensured they were well and truly hidden, firing on all cylinders and taking time to thank the people of Glasgow for their patience and the support from the city. A lot of bands say Glasgow means a lot or is their favourite place but with The Virginmarys, you know there is no bullshit involved. The band are playing better than they ever have and I can’t admit to witnessing a sub-par performance so if they continue to up their game by the time they hit Manchester and Stone Free in London, it’s bound to be mind-blowing.
As all good things must come to an end, the band departed after “Motherless Land” and we reconvened upstairs, adrenaline pumping through our veins from a most special night to chat, laugh, hug, take pictures and drink whisky. By this point, I’d been awake for about forty hours but it didn’t feel like it as one of the sweatiest gigs in history drew to a close, obliterating every performance I’d seen at Download.
There’s something special about seeing your favourite band play your hometown and whilst I may have seen them between both Glasgow dates, nothing comes close to what I saw that night. I’ve seen The Virginmarys a good number of times in the last few years, three of which has been in the last five weeks. There may not be any on the horizon for the time being but I know for an absolute fact that when the next set of dates come around, I’ll be there.