Gig Review: The Virginmarys – Stereo, Glasgow (28th November 2018)

The lights in Glasgow’s Stereo are dimmed, the crowd wait with baited breath as The Black Angels’ “Young Men Dead” pipes in over the PA before the definition of a power trio appears and the crowd roars into life. The Virginmarys are back in their home away from home. Launching into the smouldering “For the Two of Us” from the recent Northern Sun Sessions following it with the blustering charge of “Just a Ride”, it matters not that it’s a Wednesday night, as ever, Glasgow are more than willing to keep up with their adopted brethren.

As vocalist and guitarist Ally Dickaty speaks to the crowd for the first time, he introduces the rolling stomp of “Eye For an Eye” and further delving into the back catalogue with “Sweet Loretta” and the evergreen “Portrait of Red”. Then, “Get Me Back Home” sees Ally swap his faithful Les Paul for a Vox, complete with slide for the sludgy blues-ridden number from the new album. And it’s the closest the band allow the crowd to have a breather.

They tighten their grip on the enraptured audience, they’re not letting go as Ross Massey’s bass purrs into life to introduce “For You My Love”. It’s got everyone bouncing with its gargantuan chorus and massive groove before the crowd claps in sync with Danny Dolan’s kick drum for “Running For My Life” and has the crowd headbanging like their life depends on it. The damning and anguish of “Into Dust” follows as screams are as high as the crowd’s jumping and matches well with the follow-up of “Blind Lead the Blind”. Already a crowd favourite after having been given its first outings in their April tour, it’s like it’s been part of the set for years.

The band are at the top of their game tonight, despite the few days between dates, they’ve not skipped a beat and are intent on finishing the tour on a high. And before they’d even made it a fraction of the way through the set, they’d achieved it. The trio work together in perfect precision, their chemistry tangible to the point where it’s a fourth member on stage. Danny Dolan furiously pounds at his drums, constantly standing (as is the norm for him) to deliver more power into his strikes. Ally’s his own bundle of energy, screaming his lyrics of finding light in the darkness, calling out the ills of society and telling stories most people can relate to, all the while playing his riffs with the utmost precision. Meanwhile, Ross holds down the low end with his own brand of perfection, striding across his section of the stage, loving every minute. Having been performing with Ally and Danny constantly for the last couple of years, it’s like he’s been there since day one, handling basslines from other people with so much ease you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d composed them.

“S.O.S.4.U.N.I” and “Lost Weekend” has the band continue the forward momentum with two of their most viciously heavy songs. It’s hard to stop watching Danny for the former as he delivers the most intense drumming he’s put his name to. “Dead Man’s Shoes” has the crowd dancing before “Step Up” brings the noise to its most feral of the night.

Throughout the set, the band stop for Ally to give thanks to the crowd, showing the trio’s appreciation for the town they love so much, talking of the ups and downs they’ve been through as a band, thanks to the fans for sticking by them and the fact it’s more than fandom; it’s family. No fan is bigger or better than the one next to them, for the night, strangers become loved ones as we all bounce together. But more than that, just like every performance The Virginmarys have played in their storied career, there is no audience and crowd, just one unit feeding off the energy of everyone.

“Motherless Land” has everyone smiling with its upbeat sound, sadly it’s not punctuated with The Hyena Kill’s Steven Dobbs crowdsurfing like he did in Machester a few days previously. It’s followed by the groove-laden “Look Out For My Brother”. It’s also dedicated to the band’s longest and most ardent fan in the media, Tom Russell. There’s also thanks given to their hard-working crew, all name-checked and all receiving cheers equal to as if they were performing too. Keeping the intensity, “All Fall Down” leads out the main portion of the set as it builds to its stunning crescendo and it gives the audience that much-needed breather.

Returning to the stage, the ethereal and haunting “Northern Sun” plays out before it ratchets up several notches and brings the night to its climax with “Bang Bang Bang”. Every last piece of energy every person in the room has is poured into this last song, the adrenaline flowing from the first to the last note keeps everyone on their toes, the band make their farewells as hugs between everyone are exchanged.

There’s a fresh energy to The Virginmarys. They’re as passionate for their craft and fans as ever, bolstered with the new album. This is one show that people will talk about in the same breath as their domination of the Bring Back Rock Radio gig (one which still gives me goosebumps when I think about it). They’ve never been shy about their love for Glasgow and it was clear for all to see, with people coming from all over the UK to witness the spectacle for themselves, either having heard from others how good the shows are or knowing from past times. Tonight, there was an energy in the room like no other.

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David Ash
David Ash
December 1, 2018 9:46 PM

Great review Ross. See you and the VM family in Edinburgh 19 February for the next instalment!