The Virginmarys

support Beat City
author TL date 09/09/13 venue BETA, Copenhagen, DEN

Not only is it Monday evening, it's the sort of rainy, dark one when you really notice that the summer may have drawn its terminal breath, and consequently, I think that most people struggle to summon up the energy to go anywhere but to their couches, lest they have reasons much looked forward to. If I'm right, that'll make me an odd one out, because I must admit that while I've heard echoes of the hype that's been buzzing around The Virginmarys this year, I'm not so much an anxious fan of theirs, as I'm merely a reviewer who's so stuck in his role that it does not take much more than ten days without a gig, before it starts to feel like an itch I have to scratch. Long story short: I'm here, swigging at a beer, waiting for support band Beat City to appear.

More photos from the show available at kennyswan.dk

Beat City

And appear the local trio soon does, singer/guitarist to the audience's left, bassist/backing singer to the right and a guy I recognise as Helhorse organist Aske Kristiansen behind the kit in the middle. As they get started however, I must admit that the first handful of impressions I get quickly come together in my questioning "I wonder if this is their first show together?" (despite their facebook saying the band has existed since 2009) Kristiansen particularly looks like he's mouthing the beat count, tracking his beats with eyes that glare with concentration. Singer/guitarist Nikolaj Iversen looks more comfortable playing his instrument, as emphasised when he breaks out some solid soloing, but unfortunately both his playing and his singing sounds weak in the mix, which doesn't help the fact that the latter sounds more cautiously recited than outwardly performed.

On the plus side, the variation in chords, rhythm and particularly the bass lines Rune Jacobsen delivers with seamless ease, seems quite good, and while his harmonies with Iversen come out flat, Iversen's own vocals do at least seem to stay on key through various pitch changes. Still though, this has "live practice" written all over it, as the band forgets the agreed upon song order and even at what pause they'd planned a break to introduce themselves. So eventually it's hard to not realise that - despite commendable moments here and there in their so far slightly Placebo-sounding soundscape - there are more weaknesses to notice here than things to be particularly impressed by. The good news is that these can be fixed with more practice and experience, and a mix that's kinder to Iversen's contributions, but as it stands now, I think you have to be a pretty forgiving audience to think much of this particular Beat City set.

4

The Virginmarys

It's fair to say then, that I'm expecting quite a bit better from tonight's main trio, having learned that they've toured way bigger stages than Beta's in support of as established names as Skunk Anansie and Feeder (and as photographer Kenny puts it "Slash wears their tshirt!"). They kick off their set with "Bang Bang Bang", instantly establishing their sound, which I would describe as what would happen if bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Jet melted into each other, got really fucking angry and decided to go out in a blaze of a show that blew out some really expensive Marshall equipment.

As Kenny muses in my ear; "How does a trio make such noise?", and indeed, this sounds like an inferno of burning money, as the chords The Virginmarys surge to hammer in their choruses come out positively all-encompassing. From behind a typical mop of black, rockstar hair, singer/guitarist Ally Dickaty quickly abandons his clearly British clean vocal for a raspy howl that provides the notion of a narrative that's supposedly the red thread in the band's almost constant state of explosion. He and bassist Matt Rose rock about vividly, but in terms of looks, both appear like a supporting cast to drummer Danny Dolan, who might just be the most active drummer I can remember seeing.

From behind a beautiful kit (sexy touch with that wooden finish) - all of which is aligned completely flatly, Dolan is basically bouncing off his stool and leaning into each forceful blow he delivers, emphasising the punches of the band's music while the sweat stain between his characteristic suspenders grows ever larger as the band moves through an early stretch of highlights like "Just A Ride" and "My Little Girl". Both of these tracks demonstrate The Virginmarys wild power at its most potent, and so it's only justified that it hasn't taken long to make tonight's audience rock out with an abandon that looks like this is a drinking night.

It's clear to see then, why The Virginmarys are hyped. They perform with vividity and supreme authority, aided by a pair of quick stage hands that are swift to react if any small flaws in the sound or setup should appear underway. Yet while most of tonight's audience should be fully satisfied with the performance (and look like they are) it does however fall upon me to also wonder what could have been. Firstly there's an obvious observation to make about any band that has me describing them as "a constant state of explosion". It's a paradox, and much like a band like the somewhat similar Airbourne, The Virginmarys stay at pretty much the same level of intensity throughout the set, and on the few occasions where they don't, the price of Dickaty's primarily primal roar is evident, with his clean stretches coming across more as breathers for him, than moments supposed to add depth to the expression.

Consider then that for each brilliant riff, each sexy fill between chords and each expert setup and release - for each of these 'bricks' - there are also a few stretches of predictable and conventional 'mortar', necessarily sticking things together where the well of ideas has momentarily coughed dryly. A very minor offense, surely, but on an evening when a look around will still show that this is merely a half-full room courtesy of a gloomy work night booking, and on which The Virginmarys hardly share much of themselves by way of between-song banter, I'm still stuck with enough gig experience to know that these guys have potential to play even better shows. Don't get me wrong, as The Virginmarys end the regular set with "Off To Another Land" and get called back for "Dead Man's Shoes" and "Ends Don't Mend", there's no doubt that they take care of business - I'm just imagining what they might do with a bigger stage and audience, and maybe a more nuanced future sophomore album under their belt. And that fantasy means that while they bring me all the way up to the brink of forgetting that this is a dull Monday, they don't quite get me pushed over.

Setlist:

  • Bang Bang Bang
  • Portrait Of Red
  • You've Got Your Money
  • Just A Ride
  • Out Of Mind
  • My Little Girl
  • Looking For Love
  • Dressed To Kill
  • Running For My Life
  • Lost Weekend
  • Off To Another Land

Encore:

  • Dead Man's Shoes
  • Ends Don't Mend

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