Like turning water into wine, Rich Robinson’s latest post-Black Crowes musical project turned the Casino Ballroom in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire into a church for the night of September 15th. The setting was complete with a bevy of doting followers that enveloped the stage as he and his fellow bandmates delivered almost two hours of non-stop rock and roll gospel. In support of the band’s second record High Water Vol. 1, the sextet left no stone unturned with songs from Robinson’s and Marc Ford’s catalog, the unfortunately short-lived Hookah Brown stint and a few tasty covers – to which the band naturally made their own.
Hitting the stage a few minutes past the original start time, Rich Robinson (guitar/vox), John Hogg (lead vocals/guitar), Marc Ford (lead guitar/vocals), Joe Magistro (drums), Sven Pipien (bass) and Matt Slocum (keys), ripped into the nasty “Ommission” – a song that spawned from Rich’s and John’s time together in Hookah Brown. The song found its first official release on the Magpie’s first eponymous record that was a mix of studio and live recordings. From there, the band really didn’t hold back or slow down until mid-set. “Mary The Gypsy”, with Pipien throbbing bassline, provided a vintage-groove that inspired many to shake their hips, all while TMS locked in tighter as a whole. Marc Ford demonstrated his uncanny knack to find the notes that cry on his custom electric guitar during “Color Blind”.
Robinson introduced Blind Faith’s “Had To Cry Today”. Ford and Robinson doubled the main riff, compounding its weight. Hogg was on fire. His voice raised the bar, especially as the band hit the modulated bridge. Ford and Robinson brought the song to a boil by strategically and tastefully soloing, letting loose from both sides of the stage. Listening to how they intertwined their fretwork, confirmed the magic, that these two guitarists share while on stage together. The covers continued with “Layla Part II”, giving those wanting a jam session enough to chew on for quite a while.
After the “Layla” and a huge round of applause, a false start by the band was laughed off and quickly forgiven by the audience as Marc Ford strapped on an acoustic and led the band through the beautiful and heartfelt “Call Me Faithful”. “Faithful” also brought Slocum’s talent on the ivories into the mix. He added just the right amount of sparkle without taking away any of the spotlight. Hogg and Robinson seamlessly shared lead vocal duties on “The Giving Key”. Ford however, put the icing on the cake with a top-notch solo. Pipien, Magistro and Slocum then slyly left the stage.
Hogg, Ford and Robinson moved in closer together with their guitars for a quick, two-song acoustic set. Stripped down and raw, the trio swiftly weaved in the Crowes’ “Cursed Diamond” – a fan-favorite. The three-part harmony was exquisite. Hogg held aloft an impressive sense of primal-urgency in his voice. Ford and Robinson masterfully worked their craft on their fretboards. Their fans ate it up. After Ford and Hogg playfully danced around each other to untangle their guitar leads, they followed with the upbeat, foot-stompin’ “Walk On Water” from High Water. Robinson looked happier and more relaxed than ever. A few smirks, or maybe-even smiles, were witnessed by those paying attention.
Without wasting any time, the full-band got back to business with Ford impressively taking lead vocals for “Old Lady Sunrise”. Fleetwood Mac’s “Station Man” put the spotlight of the band’s vocal abilities with their powerful harmonies. Ford also put on a slide-clinic for the guitarists watching and listening at his feet. As well-culled covers have always peppered the setlists, one staple has been the Velvet Underground’s “Oh, Sweet Nuthin’”. Rich Robinson and company took this night’s take to another level. Robinson’s voice was as strong as ever and when the band chimed in for the choruses, the song was elevated once again.
After Big Star’s “Feel”, Robinson announced that the next song was the first of the official encore. TMS’ “Can You See” preceded a rousing pair of Crowes covers “Welcome To The Good Times” and a blistering “No Speak No Slave” – another classic live staple, which left the die-hards mouths agape. Magistro’s hammering behind his kit was tight and mighty. But there was more! Hogg thanked the audience once more for coming down to the show. Then the band tore into “Send Me An Omen”.
Robinson spoke with Glide before the show and commented that, “Omen” sounds like a song that’s been around forever. When people hear it, they get into with an immediate response.” For which, “Omen” may have just been the perfect song to close out the set – as it has elements of everything that has culminated, musically, to bring together the sound of this gem of a band that seemingly has more to come with additional tour dates and the assumption of more material, for inferred High Water Vol. II.