It takes a special kind of band to draw me out of my cave these days, especially as the colder autumnal evenings draw in, but blues rockers Virgil & The Accelerators are a special band and to make it even better, they’re playing a venue that’s ten minutes from my house!
Virgil & The Accelerators‘ second album “Army of Three” seems to picking up rave reviews everywhere, and rightly so. It’s an album that is thoroughly deserving of all the praise due to the quality of the songs and the phenomenal skill that the three musicians – singer/guitarist Virgil McMahon, his drummer brother Gabriel and bassist Jack Timmis – bring, as well as a sterling production job courtesy of Chris Tsangarides, but a studio album is one thing and playing live is another.
Which is handy as the band put on a stormer of a live show, making me feel quite ashamed of my fellow townsfolk as The Marrs Bar was pretty bare tonight. However, those that were there were witness to something pretty special as the band tore into tracks from “Army of Three” and 2011’s debut album “The Radium”. I’d love to be able to give you a track listing of what they did play but unfortunately I’m not accustomed to their older songs (at the moment – but I will be), although the tracks they did run through from their latest album sounded fantastic, like a pumping version of album favourite ‘Blow to the Head’ and an extended take on ‘Free’, where Virgil McMahon managed to wrangle more emotion out of his guitar than some bands manage on a whole album as he soloed like the world was burning around him. Shut your eyes and listen carefully and you could be hearing a band with far more experience than these twenty-somethings have, as their playing really does sound like a band who have been playing together for decades and Virgil‘s, rich, soulful voice adds a layer of – for use of a better word – maturity that comes from a place far from their Bromsgrove roots and closer to the Deep South.
In the dizzying swirl of hard rock heroics and bluesy swagger it occurred to me that watching Virgil go to work on his vast collection of guitars must have been what it was like to watch a young Jimi Hendrix try to find new and inventive ways to make a noise with six strings. A bold statement you may think, but he really is that good and anyone who can make ten-minute guitar breaks exciting and not just mimic Eddie Van Halen‘s fast-but-dull speed techniques is doing it right, especially coming from as jaded a mind as mine.
The rest of the band were no slouches either, with drummer Gabriel a whirlwind of activity – which is kind of at odds with the bar-room blues feel of a lot of their songs but it looks good – and his fills are something quite spectacular also. Despite the lack of an audience Virgil & The Accelerators played like they were headlining an arena and, given the right breaks, it hopefully won’t be too long before that happens. In the meantime, if they play near you then get out and support them because as far as bright young British talent goes this band are on fire and ready for the next step. Hopefully next time my camera will work as well…