It’s a blustery overcast Sunday night and we’ve ventured down to The Hope to catch New York quintet The Virgins as they tour their sophomore effort ‘Strike Gently’. There’s a trio of local bands in support; Indigo Beach, Run Young Lovers and Stacks. The latter go down the best and entice the packed-out crowd into mass hysteria.
This isn’t the first time The Virgins have visited Brighton, but a five year stretch between albums, a change in line-up leading to an altogether more mature sound makes tonight feel extra special. Formed in 2006 they won acclaim with their self-titled debut. They’ve opened for the likes of The Stooges and being the first signees to Julian Casablancas’ new label Cult Records bring with them a level of indie notoriety.
The atmosphere is at fever pitch and as the foursome launch into the opening chords of latest single ‘Prima Materia’ the venue erupts. Guitars weave back and forth between front man Donald Cumming and lead guitarist Xan Aird until at around the halfway mark Aird unleashes a guitar riff as explosively infectious as the hooks in Television’s ‘Marquee Moon’.
They follow with ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ which also feels immediately nostalgic and classic. The band rattle along like Tom Petty via Dire Straits and Cumming’s vocals have matured into an effortless Lou Reed drawl. They waste no time hurtling into ‘Flashbacks, Memories And Dreams’ which may have the band’s biggest chorus to date, complete with soaring backing vocals that lift the track to dizzying heights.
It’s reaching boiling point inside The Hope and the Manhattan natives don’t disappoint the fans that came to hear some vintage Virgins. ‘We’re gonna play some old songs…’ Cumming says with a knowing smile as the band tear into old favourites ‘One Week Of Danger’ and ‘Rich Girls’ – both receiving an ecstatic reaction on the dance floor.
The boys are true musical magpies, embodying sounds reminiscent of The Modern Lovers and Blondie but brought to life for a new generation as The Strokes once did in the early noughties. Perhaps inspired by their recent tour with indie giants The Killers, The Virgins end in suitably stadium-sized style with a beefed up version of ‘Figure On The Ice’. It’s an epic finale and they seem poised for a second chance at greatness.
After the show we manage to catch up with vocalist Donald Cumming for a chat covering all topics from their current tour to his love of Brighton Rock (the book, not the hard stuff). The guys are off to Paris, Strasbourg and Montreal next. Donald also revealed that they have been writing new material which may even surface before the end of the year. For a band so triumphantly reborn this is music to our ears.
The Hope, Sunday 23rd June 2013
Words by Andy Baker
Photos by Ashley Laurence