THE VIRGINMARYS have a tendency to bring together the best in a crowd, bringing together musicality and a fun frenzy that isn’t often pulled out in such shows as this. Having had to move venues from Academy 2 to Club Academy the band by no means lose their vigour.
Smashing into a new track from the album I Wanna Take You Home is our intro this evening. It’s instantly obvious that this home crowd have been rehearsing Divides through as thoroughly as the boys. There is barely space to move in this packed little space, but the intensity of the heat and the bounce of the crowed only adds to the madness the music incurs. Halo In Her Silhouette is a new classic for sure, as easy to shout at the top of your lungs as any track from the previous record.
Dead Man’s Shoes, always one for a blues rock out, keeps the crowd bouncing even in the sweltering heat. Falling Down, another new one, still packs a punch as if it were one of the oldies. The boys have pulled all the stops on this one; they play hell for leather, every breath, every strum and beat sizzling in the air and the intense humidity. There is a cry of joy when Portrait of Red crashes in. Danny Dolan is a monster of calculated precision, his face transfixed, while Matt Rose shakes his head like a grunge king. Ally Dickaty is fierce, his features contorted as he belts out Running for My Life. Equally Into Dust, the breakout song from the latest album, is an absolute stonker. Kill the Messenger is awesome, and it’s amazing just how the mob has constantly maintained their liveliness.
Moths to a Flame is dedicated to Jo Cox, which is poignant and heartfelt. For some, this could feel like a stunt, but not Ally. This is a man with genuine integrity, and you can feel his passion in every note. Free to Do Whatever They Say and Lost Weekend go down just as well as any of th e older songs, the beauty of this new record being its earworms.
Taking the Blame is one of the tunes that has always been a crowdpleaser, and it’s interesting to see how well For You My Love goes down in just the same manner. Essentially this proves that no matter what THE VIRGINMARYS play, it’s a riot. The sound this evening hasn’t been at its best, but the way the people shout Take a Walk In My Shoes it clearly has gone unnoticed.
The band announce that it is young drummer Dylan Massey’s birthday, a lad the boys have known for years, and who has been encouraged and influenced Danny. The track Bang Bang Bang is dedicated to him, with the crowd chanting his name. It’s a very personal moment that brings the best of the home crowd together. The way the band controls the crowd is not through a charge of brutality, but through fun and comradery. Just a Ride is a tune that keeps on giving, the earnest, fervent kind of song that will never feel overplayed. Conversely, there’s a surprise this evening in Manchester, a tune that hasn’t been played live for as long as many can remember. Ends Don’t Mend, one of THE VIRGINMARYS fan favourites, graces the crowd this evening. It’s a momentous roar of approval as the band begins, and couldn’t be a better track to complete the set.
However, Push the Pedal works just as well in the encore. It’s getting pretty roasted in the room by this point, every person drenched in this sweatbox, and the people love it. Even if they don’t, they’re still more than happy to throw themselves in their delirious pit. It’s a blast, and the latest single, Motherless Land, is performed like it’s just the start of the night. By this point, Danny has split his hand with the intensity of his playing, Ally is a sodden hulk of vocals and stings, and Matt… well, Matt looks like he did when he walked on stage, his classic stance in action as he powers through the basslines. It’s been a hell of a gig, with barely a moment spared for silence. There’s a buzz as the sopping hoard peel themselves apart and stagger, grinning, out into the night. It’s been, as ever, one hell of a ride.
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