It’s been five years since The Virgins achieved indie-pop/punk glory in the New York music scene and received many positive reviews for their self-titled debut album. They played at various festivals and opened for Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Patti Smith, Sonic Youth and The Strokes. They were one of the most promising acts of 2009 but had to go through some drastic changes before they could move on with their career. With an entirely new lineup and the absence of former lead singer Donald Cumming, they released their sophomore album “Strike Gently” this past March with Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records.
It’s not surprising, then, that they sold out Bowery Ballroom on Monday for one of the last stops of the Cult Records Tour. The show’s first opener, Luke Rathborne, surprised the audience with a performance that revealed a polished sound beyond his years. Then, after second opener Har Mar Superstar gradually lost more and more clothing over the course of his set — while still managing to belt out funky and soulful tunes — The Virgins finally took the stage.
The guys stepped onto the stage and looked like their usual too-cool-for-school selves, led by a seemingly nervous Cumming, and started with “Fast Times.” The show took time kicking into gear but picked up after a few songs when they played “One Week of Danger” from the first album. The live cut took a faster and less funky approach than the recorded version but not necessarily in a bad way. After “One Week of Danger,” the performers gained more confidence and played most of the songs from “Strike Gently” while still dutifully playing the sexy dance beat “Rich Girls,” much to the excitement of the dancing crowd.
The killer guitar solos and catchy lyrics are highlights of “Flashbacks, Memories, and Dreams,” a song from the new album. “Prima Materia” also translated to the stage very well. The show closed with “Fernando Pando,” which featured just the frontman Cumming — a powerful juxtaposition to punctuate the set before the screaming crowd begged for an encore.
The Virgins’ performance proved that the band is moving away from the dance tracks of their first album toward contemplative pop-rock songs. The new Virgins are certainly not the same, but they’ve shown that they’re different in the best way possible.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 4 print edition. Yasmine Panah is a staff writer. Email her at email@example.com.