Pete Feenstra chats to Virgil McMahon on Sunday 6 December, 19:00 GMT on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio
Virgil & The Accelerators unveil their new bass man, The River Chickens guitarist Joel Wildgoose. His powerful bass playing, big vocal and natural stage presence brings a new dimension to VATA.
As their ‘Army Of Three’ CD title suggests, the band is the sum of it’s parts, but Joel gives them extra drive as he locks in with Gabriel McMahon to push Virgil’s guitar playing to new heights. Wildgoose also doubles as a rock solid accompanist and front line player to give the band an extra layer of sonic delight.
There’s also a notable change of image, as Virgil has ditched his hippie look for a cool pompadour style quiff which may suggest Psychobilly, but his sparkling psychedelic notes tell us otherwise.
The band mixes raw power with beautifully crafted arrangements to subtly build a series of tensions which Virgil inevitably resolves with contrasting intricately woven solos and coruscating riffs.
The uplifting opener ‘Take Me Higher’ finds him cutting a swathe through Gabe’s big cymbal splashes with reams of jangling notes, on a song with significant changes. The hook doesn’t quite work, but Virgil’s fills the gap with mesmerising waves of shimmering notes that fill the room full to bursting point.
The riff driven and straight-to-the-vein ‘Blow To The Head is more immediately accessible, while ‘All Night Long’ is flat out rock with a repeated riff, a chanted hook and a catchy ‘wooo-oooh’ refrain that draws the crowd into the song.
’88’ delivers an even bigger riff and illustrates Joel’s understated power. Gabe is in his element as he dominates the kit to shape the song, while his brother sculpts his own wah-wah inflected solo.
You can almost feel the band growing up in front of you as the songs are jammed to their full potential. Virgil’s has real presence, born of a perpetual search for a balance between his cool persona and his intense solos. He frequently rocks back and forth in the moment almost oblivious to anything else, except perhaps the imposing figure of Joel on his left, who matches his intensity lick by lick.
It’s not often that a band deep into their tour can sustain such energy levels, but VATA are no ordinary band. They rise again to stretch out on the instrumental ‘The Storm’, on which Virgil’s moves from opening volume swells to heavy riffing and a stop-start breakdown that pushes them into a slightly different direction.
There’s a sudden grungy attack, a psychedelic explosion and a subsequent Alvin Lee style riff – albeit heavily distorted – that brings them their biggest reaction of the night so far.
Hard to believe that somewhere at the heart of this musical storm there’s new line-up still finding its feet! They smoke on the vitriolic ‘Backstabber’ and Joel brings his extra vocals to bear on the uplifting ‘Free’, a song that has grown to epic proportions since its original recording.
A well deserved encore ushers in the meditative ‘Silver Giver’ – complete with a familiar ‘Sleepwalk’ riff – and the Boom Boom Club positively erupts as Gabe thunders the band into Zeppelin’s ‘Rock & Roll’ featuring Joel on titanic vocals.
Tonight, Virgil & The Accelerators are rebooted, reinvigorated, reborn and seriously rocking.
Early on Black Whiskey remind us of the golden age of early 70s’s rock as they power their way through some impressive self penned material of which the bone crunching ‘Hungry For Bullets’ and the closing ‘Big Train’ are highlights.
File under Classic rock delivered with style, panache and real fervour. A quick mention too for the vocalist Simon Gordon, who has the presence, the vocal range and refreshingly the enunciation, to deliver his lines impeccably.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by John Bull Rockrpix
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00
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