The Magpie Salute released a sublime studio debut in August 2018 featuring 12 tracks that contain all the ingredients for a classic rock record. After last year’s shows of covers, solo and old Black Crowes songs, they were surely eager to play these new songs live when they descended on the UK for a series of shows. Lee Gabi shares his own account and photos from three of those shows…
Bristol Fiddlers is an old 18th century prison thats been converted into a music venue with a capacity of 450. It’s in a part of town that looks like an industrial estate that’s pitch black and rather funky. Boarded up pub windows near the venue, which is only found as a large black tour bus with a trailer is parked up outside. Inside is a small corner stage loaded with the familiar Fender twin reverbs of Marc Ford and vox combos of Rich Robinson sit nicely with a large selection of racked guitars. No separation from the stage and floor mean the audience surround the small stage within touching distance of the musicians. The band hit the stage at 10:00pm opening with “High Water, Walk On Water” and “Take It All” from the new album. Hogg showed a strong vocal but was lost in the mix with Slocum on keys not present also! Robinson, guitar techs and engineers on the mixing desk found a way to improve the sound before one of the best songs from the new album, “For The Wind” is played. Robinson played the opening intro before Hogg’s raspy vocal came in for the first verse as “bullets fly on the battlefield…” As the second verse kicked in, all levels of the instruments are raised, slapping you round the face as Ford hit those high notes on his guitar.
“What Goes On” and “Oh Sweet Nuthin’” by the Velvet Underground, one of Robinson’s favourite bands, followed. An acoustic section featuring the main vocalists of Hogg, Robinson and Ford was a welcome relief for my eardrums and “Sister Moon” from the new album showed off Hogg’s vocal abilities. A cover of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “You Don’t Have To Cry” had wonderful harmonies, while the first Black Crowes song of the night “Lay It All On Me” from their Lions album had the other members of the band creeping on stage as it went from acoustic to electric. A trio of Black Crowes songs would come soon and be gratefully received by the audience. It was clear that Robinson is the musical conductor with knowing glances and nods of the head to the other musicians, especially when they ‘open up the songs’. Magistro, on drums, was a whirlwind of arms, hair and sweat. Slocum on keys got a chance to shine and really lit up the stage with his harmonic improvisation. It was hard to take your eyes off him when he was using his ‘hong kong phooey chops!’ The temperature was now as high as the windows in this former prison. The set ended with “Send Me An Omen”, a raucous rocker from the new album. It was past midnight and folks were starting to leave after two hours but the lights did not come on. Eventually the band returned for a stunning version of the Crowes’ “Wiser Time” with tasteful lead guitar from Ford and slide from Robinson. After over two hours of music I left there smiling and slightly drained. A great opening night (pre-festival) to their first UK tour.
Birmingham The Mill. A new venue made for live music with professional lighting and sound. A great wrap around balcony opposite the stage was a real bonus. There were no sound problems this night as the band opened with “High Water”, “Mary The Gypsy”, “Color Blind” and “For The Wind”. “Color Blind”, a song lyrically describing Hogg’s background as a Londoner of Swedish and Nigerian heritage, is a song that doesn’t get performed often but was a nice addition to the set. Covers tonight include Pink Floyd, Big Star and Blind Faith’s “Had To Cry Today”. Ford performed a stirring “I’m Free” from his solo album Holy Ghost before Hogg introduced a Robinson solo song that he would sing, ‘because I fucking love this song!’ The acoustic set ended with the Crowes’ “Nonfiction”, a vocal treat that lifted when the rest of the band joined for the electric section. The band is known for changing the setlist each night and it now has a pattern of core songs from the new album followed by covers and solo songs from Ford/Robinson catalogue, an acoustic section, and Black Crowes songs. The trio of Black Crowes songs on this night got a righteous response from the audience with some banter in between songs as Hogg talked about reincarnation.
Manchester The Academy 2. This was a hometown gig for me and the attendance was the biggest of the three shows. “High Water”, “Take It All” and “Omission” were welcome return for this ‘first original Magpie Salute song’ but was originally a Hookah Brown song, a band Robinson put together with Hogg that didn’t take off some years ago. Robinson sang The Band’s “Look Out Cleveland” and it brought to mind the connection with three vocalists that both bands have but The Magpie Salute didn’t have the same level of instrumentation that members of The Band could pull off. “Black Cloud”, another old Hookah Brown song, got a rare outing before a truly sublime acoustic section of the show. “Sister Moon” from new album had Hogg again showing his vocal qualities before Robinson sang a fantastic version of “She” by Gram Parsons. The audience respected the musicians and not a word was said. The Crowes’ “How Much For Your Wings” ends the acoustic set. Ford’s “Walk On Water” from the new album was performed as a tour de force with Ford, Hogg and Robinson singing lead through this great number. The faithful from the Black Crowes days got wonderful versions of “Black Moon Creeping”, “Another Roadside Tragedy” and “Jealous Again”. It must be nearly twenty years ago I first heard Jealous Again and it still sounded great played by these three ex-Crowes.