And there was a lot to celebrate. Not only they sold out the Academy (was there any doubt?) but also one of the most proudest moments for the band and everyone who's been there for Ally, Danny and Matt from the very beginning was them winning the Breakthrough Act prize at Classic Rock Awards last week, a night after another sold out show at the famous 100 Club in London. Seeing that finally! their work is being recognized by the higher masses in the music industry, the Manchester show was set to become one of the band's best and most memorable live shows up to date. The levels of excitement were extremely high not only on the band's side but everyone who got a ticket or a guest list spot for the night, and more than ever, we were ready to rock.
The VM's were joined by some really great support acts - Bolton based heavy rock 4-piece To The Bones, who shared the stage with them in London and Manchester, and the main support band of the tour - Southend On Sea based indie rock 4-piece Vox Empire. The usual aim of an opening act is to get the crowd all warmed up and boy, To The Bones did a damn good job at doing so. Being already compared to the likes of Motorhead and QOTSA, the band who possesses a kick-ass female bass player kicked off the show in a heavy style with some pretty impressive guitar riffs, stormy drum beats and intense vocals, and yes we could feel the Cobain influence in there too and we did not mind at all. Obviously, the walls of the already crowded room needed to be tested as well as the crowd itself needed to get ready for what was coming later on. To The Bones delivered. Mission accomplished. www.tothebones.co.uk
Up next were Vox Empire, who already impressed me the night before in Edinburgh; I forgot to mention that I attended that show too and it was a brilliant gig, but back to Manchester and the main support act... these guys acquire a real likeability factor and manage to create a great vibe with their catchy rock anthems and distinct vocals of the lead singer, plus they're not bad looking either! Everyone was buzzing while watching the band making the most of playing for the biggest audience of the tour and they seemed to have a real good time on stage. Extra points go to the drummer for proudly rocking the new Virginmarys 'Bang Bang Bang' t-shirt. Vox Empire are the type of a band that's hard to forget once seen live, and I think the Virginmarys have made a fantastic choice for taking them along for the ride. voxempire.com
The moment we all impatiently waited for all these months was about to happen and The Virginmarys finally appeared on stage of the sold out Academy, facing an audience full of familiar faces and about to blow everyone's mind with their biggest and best live performance yet. Starting the set with the mighty Portrait Of Red, each of them in place, Danny armed with stripes as always, ready to give his drums some proper final beating, Ally's razorblade vocals started to echo through the venue with everyone in the crowd joining in, and once the chorus kicked in, it went wild. People jumping, throwing arms in the air and singing each lyric out loud. Just a Ride, Out of Mind... track by track, I've never felt such an exchange of love and energy between a band and the audience before. It was one happy reunion for both ends.
"Manchester, look at this. We've done this together!" - Ally praised everyone for their undying support over the years, that's led them to this moment as well as winning the Classic Rock award. These three Macclesfield lads have come such a long way by paving their way up with patience, hard work, humbleness and putting all their heart into the music they create. So to finally see them receiving the recognition we've always known they deserved was a very proud moment indeed.
The VM's sounded heavier than ever on Friday night, giving us their all, riff by riff, beat by beat, scream by scream...whether it was Dressed To Kill, Taking The Blame or the laid back and beautiful Keep Me On The Run, where Ally did his usual solo thing and reminded us of his brilliant song writing. The night went on and each of the songs turned into a real live beast, bouncing off the walls and leaving some real sweat and thirst behind. Kill The Messenger, Dead Man's Shoes, Off To Another Land - dedicated to everyone who's travelled miles to come and see the band. With each bang from Danny Dolan we remembered why he's one of the best and most interesting drummers out there gifted with hypnotizing drum skills and speed, leaving everyone in awe.
After a massive Ends Don't Mend, the VM's thanked everyone and disappeared off stage but we knew that there was still one last song missing to finish off this incredible show. Ally, Danny and Matt were greeted back by a mass of loud cheers a few minutes later, closing up with the one and only - Bang Bang Bang. Once again, the immense love between them three and the ecstatic crowd was exchanged fully and a very special memory was created. The Virginmarys have fixed the parts of rock and roll that got broken somewhere along the way and with each one of their live shows, they restore our faith in it by leaving all their heart and soul on every single stage they get to play and making each person in the audience feel more alive than ever. With such a fast growing fan base, bigger sound and support from the music industry, the venues are about to turn into arenas and before we know it, we'll find ourselves in stadiums cheering among thousands of others for the very same band we all came to support that one unforgettable night at Manchester Academy 2.