When you’ve spent most of your short transatlantic career drumming it into folk you’re actually from Manhattan and most definitely not part of the trendy band bonanza taking place across the river in Brooklyn, it must be a bit galling, at your first high-profile UK show of 2009, to be enthusiastically introduced as “The Virgins, from Brooklyn!” If it narks the band though, they don’t let it show, and frontman Donald Cumming leads his five-man gang (only three of whom are full-time Virgins) straight into the slick yacht-rock of ‘Teen Lovers’.
They make light work, too, of conjuring up American Psycho-esque visions of sharp-suited ’80s guitar pop with their yuppie-friendly sound. Thankfully, though, they don’t dress the part – no rolled-up blazer sleeves or red braces here, just XXL T-shirts, velour neckties and a dapper pork-pie hat. ‘Rich Girls’ is next, with its funky Nile Rodgers guitar line, falsetto freakouts, glossy Berlin bass and a vague whisper of Calvin Harris sounding like a less wacky MGMT. It’s also obvious to see where the incessant Strokes comparisons come from when they burst into the blasé jangle of ‘Radio Christiane’ and the excellent ‘Private Affair’, but there’s more to them than just musical cherry-picking. The way Cumming leans out into the crowd, questioning eyebrows looming above an intense-but-affable glare that seems to take on everybody in the room, is proof positive that either he really bloody means it, or that this is some kind of high-end art project, which isn’t out of the realms of possibility.
Drawing to a short, sharp close with the perky ‘One Week Of Danger’, The Virgins have impressively made their case for being massive in 2009; time to get jealous, Brooklyn.