Always a must when dates are announced, The Virginmarys crashed into Brighton as part of their short tour in support of their recent EP, Sitting Ducks. Myself having decamped from Glasgow to the windy seaside beach resort, half the fun in seeing the best band in the UK right now is the chance to catch up with the friends that I’ve made from knowing the band. Indeed, family reunions don’t get much better.
Beers consumed and The Virginmarys interviewed (watch this space), there’s a hubbub of activity in the upstairs bar as Ally and Ross of The Virginmarys play Mario Kart. Meanwhile, downstairs, two piece Naked Six are plying their trade of the heaviest, filthiest blues you can think of. Vocalist and guitarist Seb Byford’s hands are a blur as he rattles out riff after riff, bouncing them against Tom Witts’ frenetic drumming. They make the most of their time and win over the crowd effortlessly.
Lights down and the main attraction of the night mount their assault. Opening proceedings with “I Wanna Take You Home”, it’s great to have The Virginmarys kick the night off with this again. “Halo in Her Silhouette” follows with “Into Dust” before they finally delve into King of Conflict material with “Portrait of Red”. Not pausing for breath, the first Sitting Ducks song is unleashed in the form of “Sweet Loretta”.
By now the sweat is flowing freely from both the band and the crowd as neither refuse to stand still. Ally Dickaty spits out his throaty vocals as they build to screams for “Running For My Life” and “Falling Down”, his Les Paul taking a loving beating as he spars with bassist Ross Massey. There’s not much room for the band tonight so Ross’ signature stomping during “Sitting Ducks” is largely rooted to the spot. Meanwhile, the opening riff of “Northern Sun” brings a smile to everyone’s faces. Having had the track in an acoustic format, when it was transformed into its plugged in version for their September 2014 tour, it was a beast. Tonight is no different once the chorus takes hold.
Feeding off the energy of the crowd, the band as always are delivering nothing but their best. It seems as the crowd up the ante on their side, the band return in kind by putting even more into their performance. Which, in turn, makes the crowd push themselves even more. Danny Dolan smashes his drums in his signature style as if he hates the things, Ally bounces on the spot as he lovingly strangles his guitar and Ross, as always, looks like he’s been there since day one with his massive stage presence and thick bass lines. Together, they lock in to deliver their tightest performance to date.
Whilst new songs from Sitting Ducks may be getting aired, the trio are more than happy to play a brand new song. “Look Out for My Brother” is loaded with funk and has one of the biggest, nastiest grooves I’ve heard in a Virginmarys song. However, they’re equally happy to go back to their early days with “Off to Another Land” and once again, Ally’s borderline vocal chord shredding screams of “Doctor!” has the room enraptured.
The band finish with the bouncy and infectious “Motherless Land” and “Just a Ride” before leaving with the parting shot of their bluesiest song ever: “Ends Don’t Mend”. Epic in the true sense of the word, Ally’s guitar work is riveting and not for the first time watching it on this song, I’m rooted to the floor, open-mouthed. The band don’t hang around to come back for the encore and it feels like as soon as they leave the stage, they’re back, digging deep into the reserves for the thrashy “Through the Sky”.
Then, the moment so many people had been waiting for. “Bang Bang Bang” with the return of the gong after Danny famously broke his old one a number of years back. Brought back to the live set with an impressive crowdfunding campaign organised by the fans, it sets up the final song to create the longest set the boys have done to date (previously in Glasgow they did 19). With a few massive crashes from it, the marching rhythm of the finale brings the night to its close and understandably, as ever, it’s nothing less than a stellar performance from the trio.
Photos by Rachel’s Gigs and Pics