Gig review: VEGA – Islington Academy, London, 30 May 2016

VEGA - Islington Academy, London, 30 May 2016

Midway through a successful tour supporting Magnum, UK melodic rock hopefuls Vega slipped in a headline show of their own at the smaller of Islington Academy’s two halls. Judging from easily the biggest crowd for a headline London show yet, making for an uncomfortably sweaty atmosphere, we long-time fans are being joined by an increasing number who have picked up on them through high profile tour slots with the likes of Magnum and the Down n Outz.

I’d seen them on the Magnum tour in Oxford a fortnight previously, so was prepared for a furious opening in the onomatopoeic ‘Explode’, which also leads off new album ‘Who We Are’, and a follow up in first album favourite ‘Kiss of Life’, with several fists punching the air.

VEGA - Islington Academy, London, 30 May 2016

The ‘who-oah-ohs’ were the first indication of a recurring theme, which is that Vega knowingly use what I could only describe as wordless lyrics to enhance their already strong choruses to a better extent than anyone since prime time Bon Jovi. Lead singer Nick Workman, his hair grown out, is full of energy and charisma with an effortless command of the stage but does not take himself too seriously.

VEGA - Islington Academy, London, 30 May 2016

‘Not There For You’ boasted an unexpectedly heavy middle section featuring some thunderous drumming from Dan Chantrey and ‘Gonna Need Some Love Tonight’ climaxed with some spot on backing vocals and a typically fluid, effortless guitar solo from Marcus Thurston. New single ‘Every Little Monster’ had an irresistible steam hammer of a hook.

VEGA - Islington Academy, London, 30 May 2016

With four albums now to choose from, a near hour and a half set, and a refreshing absence of solos or other padding, there was plenty of scope for everyone’s favourites to be heard. They chose to focus exclusively on uptempo songs and, while this could be criticised for a lack of variety of pace, the upshot was a treat of one hook filled anthem after another.

VEGA - Islington Academy, London, 30 May 2016

These ranged from old favourites like ‘The Wild The Weird the Wonderful’, ‘Stereo Messiah’, ‘All or Nothing’ and ‘Wherever We Are’ to new material from ‘Who We Are’ which already feels instantly familiar. ‘We Got it All’ and ‘White Flag’ both had an anthemic feel with their strong melodies and positive lyrical messages and even tracks that impressed me less  like ‘Hurt So Bad’ came alive.

It was great to hear some of the songs from the second album ‘What The Hell’ that failed to make it into the Magnum set which naturally showcased newer material including the title track- whose opening drum beat gave it a ‘Cherry Pie’ or ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ vibe – and the massive choruses of ‘White Knuckle Ride’ with people picking up on a ‘hey hey’ chant.

VEGA - Islington Academy, London, 30 May 2016

By the time they closed with ‘Hands In The Air’, the crowd were doing likewise was a variant on the old party game ‘Simon Says’.

There was also a surprise for the first encore with ‘Into The Wild’ from their first album (how six years have flown by), followed by ‘Saving Grace’. As Nick dived through the crowd and people sang along to one of those irresistible chants, the thought occurred to me that while the Great British public in their infinite wisdom think Coldplay and Mumford and Sons pass for stadium rock, the broad brush strokes of Vega’s big sound are potentially the real deal.

As they left the stage Nick thanked the crowd for giving them the night of their lives, while I went away describing it as a stadium sized show in a small club. If there is any justice these anthems will shortly be being delivered on the bigger stages they deserve.

Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Darren Griffiths

Gig review (with Magnum, May 2016)
Album review

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