Borderline, London, 29 September 2014 - Tonight is arguably the most significant gig of Virgil & The Accelerators young career. It’s their central London showcase for the hard hitting ‘Army of Three’ album. And on an unseasonably warm Monday night, they play their early evening set as if their lives depend on it. This after all is a rock band on a mission. VATA straddle the past, present and future. They are a musical conduit that links the enduring retro influences of Hendrix, Leslie West, Steve Miller and the younger Joe Walsh with say Wolfmother, Royal Blood and Philip Sayce. They stand on the cusp of their own fully realized style that incorporates all those elements and makes them such an exciting proposition.
One minute guitarist Virgil dredges up a few Billy Gibbons licks, the next he’s going back to Keith Richard for source classic rock riffs, before he memorably loses himself in the moment and drags the audience to another place. He’s not on his own of course, as his brother Gabriel evokes the ghost of Keith Moon with furious excursions round his kit to launch the band on to another level. And standing stage right is the indomitable Jack Alexander Timmis, the veritable anchor of the band, who makes sure the wild musical excesses are kept in check with some essential root notes, while his back-up vocals bring extra depth to the hooks. The band’s unrelenting energy levels and high octane show is lapped up by a crowd that appears to be demographically split into three, ranging from a smattering of young fans to the majority of middle aged heads and a bunch of veteran rockers who provide the most vociferous support of the night. The band responds in kind to stretch out, hit a groove and revel in a succession of booming hooks of which the opening ‘Take Me Higher’ sets the standard. The powerful ‘Blow to the Head’ has to be one of the of their most aptly titled rock songs, as it slips into a Thin Lizzy style guitar break via a change of tempo.
The single ‘All Night Long’ benefits from a great opening riff and ‘Backstabber’ is played with the kind of venom that probably inspired the lyrics in the first place. ‘88’ briefly revisits their blues-rock roots before the mesmerizing spacey intro to ‘Through the Night’ leads them to a burst of celestial notes punctuated by Gabe’s cymbal grabs. The chiming riffs envelope us as Virgil lets the guitar motif drift from the heart of the song into the body of the room. He shows commendable restraint while teasing out wave after wave of volume swells, ethereal sounds and intricate notes on ‘Low Down & Dirty’. It’s a marvellous exposition of psychedelic jamming that shifts from deep introspection to a gut busting finale. Clocking in at well over 20 minutes this show-stopping, slow burner finds Virgil bent double over his guitar. He sculpts an aural landscape full of sonorous notes, with echo reverb embellishments and subtle rhythmic pushes, as part of a slinky jam on which Gabriel adds his most subtle percussion of the evening.
For most bands that would have been the moment to down tools and head for the sanctuary of the dressing room to reflect on a job well done. Not so Virgil & The Accelerators, who stick around for a surprisingly melodic southern rock finish with ‘Free’. The audience joins in on the ascending chorus as Virgil’s snaking guitar line wraps itself round the congregation and Gabriel works up a bombastic crescendo on his kit. There’s just time for a deserved encore and another psychedelic flashback with their unique take on Hendrix’s ‘Are You Experienced’, to provide the perfect uplifting end to a memorable night. Review by Pete Feenstra