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VIRGIL & THE ACCELERATORS
The Anchor Music Club, Lewisham, London SE13
25 September 2009

With a 15 year old schoolboy drummer Gabriel McMahon, a 16 year old bass player Tom Sansbury (who is at Music College) and the fiery 17 year old Virgil McMahon on guitar, Virgil & The Accelerators is a young band on the up escalator.

Hailing from Aberystwyth mid - Wales and with barely handful high profile supports behind them Virgil &The Accelerators have seemingly come out of nowhere to make a big impression.

Ostensibly a power trio and fronted by Virgil, a guitarist for whom tone, sustain, dynamics and spontaneity count just as much as speed and volume, Virgil and his band are so much more than many of their contemporaries. Come to think of it, they are so young they probably don't have too many contemporaries let alone any that can boast opening for the likes of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Carvin Jones and Sherman Robertson.

And while this was ostensibly a low key London debut, the truth of the matter is they provided jaw dropping evidence that they really do have something special.

The two set show at this intimate blues club offered a clue as to their influences and possible future direction. But even that notion was often turned on its head in the course of a handful of familiar numbers that at any time were supplemented by inspired guitar playing, sumptuous bass lines and some powerhouse drumming.

Virgil is a 'feel' player who is not averse pursuing a musical idea to an unlikely conclusion as he dredged up some angular riffs and led the band into some combustible interplay.

So while he found his range on the opening cover of Steve Ray's 'Scuttle Buttin' and quickly settled into a shuffle mode on a cool blues groove, it was the self penned 'Everybody' that really offered a glimpse of the band's future possibilities as they referenced Robert Randolph on a repeated riff that formed the core of an impressive jammed out groove.

Similarly another Virgil effort, the muscular 'What Am I To Do' drew on another of his influences Joe Bonamassa, but the band quickly turned the song into an impressive rock/blues outing all of their own.

They further dipped into the Bonamassa template for 'Had To Cry Today' and a raucous 'Ballad of John Henry', while the impressive rhythm section excelled itself on the fractured funky groove of John Mayer's 'Who Did You Think I Was'. Virgil meanwhile somehow managed to shift his attack from Mayer to Kenny Wayne Shepherd via SRV in the course of barely 4 minutes.

Some of the influences may be obvious and in the case of a raucous cover of 'Crossroads' - think a tidal wave of notes played impossibly fast - and another speeded up version of Hendrix's 'Wait Til Tomorrow', complete with falsetto bv's, they showed a real penchant for taking the basics of a song and filling its potential in a unique Virgil & the Accelerators way.

So far so good, but then came the stellar moment of the evening with a complete rework of 'Voodoo Chile'. You might catch any number of bands reworking this nugget, but the Virgil's trio made it something altogether different. And here in a nutshell is their unique selling point.

Virgil band may be a power trio but they are a 'feel' led jam band with a rare ability to draw on a related number of influences in the course of one song. The middle section saw Virgil almost bent double at the front of the stage holding down some spacey stained notes and slipping into some 50's pastiche - think The Shadows meet The Ventures - before submerging the whole number in a psychedelic guitar wash

For a London debut this was pretty impressive stuff. For such a young band the playing was as intuitive as it was spell binding. But above all Virgil & The Accelerators have an ability to get inside a song and turn in into something else. If in the fullness of time they can add more of their own songs they will really be on to something.


Review  by Pete Feenstra

Best of 2009

 


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