Having boasted GRTR!’s album of 2016 with ‘Who We Are’, Vega continue to work hard to bring their modern brand of melodic rock to the masses. After touring with Dan Reed Network in the Spring, Autumn has brought this headline tour with new product after a fashion to promote, in a fan only demo collection ‘Now That’s What I Call Vega’.
Sadly the million selling status of the compilations that bear that title continue to harshly elude them, with disappointing tour attendances and this London show moved to one of the smaller rooms in the Student Union. The so-called Library Bar had a dated selection of chain lagers, sadly not even at student prices, while it was clearly not set up for live music with a cramped stage at floor level.
Luckily Vega have the charisma to rise above the limitations of any venue and pulled off a masterstroke by opening with ‘Hands In The Air’, usually placed near the end of the set, but a thick knot of fans at the front were already joyfully doing just that.
The show confirmed my view that they are performing stadium sized anthems in a club environment. In particular they are the biggest masters of what you might call wordless lyrics since Bon Jovi, as the ‘heys’ to ‘White Knuckle Ride’ showed.
With a set that spanned all four albums to date, established songs like ‘Stereo Messiah’, ‘Into The Wild’ and ‘Every Little Monster’ were treated like old friends by a crowd that made up in fanaticism what it lacked in numbers.
However in a wise, fan-friendly move they refreshed the set, with some more rarely played numbers like ‘Battle Of The Broken Hearted’, with some very atmospheric, almost symphonic, keyboard work from James Martin and a gem I’d forgotten from 2010’s ‘Kiss Of Life’ debut , ‘One Of A Kind’ with typically uplifting lyrics.
One of the demos also aired in ‘Coz It’s You’, a touch poppier than their usual fare with some falsetto singing on the chorus from Nick Workman. Despite space limitations cramping his style a tad, Nick is an exuberant, confident frontman with some easy banter both with crowd and teasing his bandmates, who included a new drummer in the extravagantly sideburned Hutch.
‘Gonna Need Some Love Tonight’ is always a live favourite and was one of many where lead guitarist Marcus Thurston impressed with rapid fire, technically skilled but very melodic soloing. The riffs on ‘Explode’ were razor sharp, and another rarely played song ‘Ignite’ had some spot on vocal harmonies on the ‘Can You Feel It’ refrain. Their increased roadwork over the last couple of years has made the band a tighter proposition than ever before.
There is no such thing as a downbeat Vega song but the real anthems were concentrated in the second half of the set as ‘What The Hell’ with more ‘hey heys’, ‘White Flag’ and ‘Wherever We Are’ – perhaps the one song where Nick’s vocal exuberance got the better of him and I heard the odd bum note – had increasing numbers punching the air and jumping up and down.
‘Saving Grace’, beginning with some Cult-like riffing before developing into an insistent ‘yay-yay-oh’ chant, has now become established as the traditional set closer, while after Nick said they were dispensing with the pretence of coming back for an encore, a 75 minute set had time for one more in first album favourite ‘Kiss Of Life’, its long intro only heightening the anticipation for another massive chorus that again had the crowd jumping.
It was another top notch Vega gig, and perhaps the last chance to hear some several songs before they promote the next album. I feel quite evangelical that they should be playing to the larger crowds that these anthems were designed to be heard by.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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