Going back to March 2013 and the Black Crowes play for the final time in Manchester at the sold-out Academy 1. The tour continued till the end of 2013, but the Crowes never toured again – the Brothers Robinson parted company and went their separate ways. Over 5 years later and Rich Robinson returns with his band, The Magpie Salute, to the slightly smaller Academy 2. It’s a Monday night and it’s almost full to capacity; there is a buzz of excitement and anticipation following the release of their first studio album, “Highway Water 1”, which is receiving great reviews.
Before we find out if any of the Crowes songs from that night will make the set, the support band Maker hit the stage for our entertainment. From the moment they hit the stage you immediately you notice the swagger. Despite their 30-minute set, Maker certainly got the crowd warmed up, with their 60s style psychedelic bluesy rock. Great vocals from enigmatic frontman Alessandro Marinelli, coupled with solid rhythms and tasty licks. Their time on stage went far too quickly and as they launched into their final song of the night, “Too Much Woman” – a tune about Ike and Tina Turner – they were really kicking it. Some tasty slide work, awesome vocals and a touch of mouth organ, they are certainly a band I need to see live again. They entertained the crowd and gained a lot of new fans, this was evident later by the number of people leaving the venue clutching their new album, “Dead Ends & Avenues”.
Stage covered with oriental rugs, joss sticks lit – it’s time for The Magpie Salute and from the moment they walk onto the stage and into “High Water”, you know it’s going to be a great night, the sound is perfect from the start. Straight into “Take it all”, again from the new album and John Hogg is already belting out the vocals, boy can the guy sing. Next, we are treated to the first of two songs from John and Rich’s short-lived band Hookah Brown, “Omissions”. Back to High Water for the excellent “For the Wind” – the band are clearly enjoying themselves and have stepped up a gear. Some funky honky-tonk piano from Matt Slocum in the cover of The Bands, “Look Out Cleveland” with Rich taking on vocal duties.
Two more covers followed the excellent “Laila 11”, originally by space rock band Agitation Free and the “Shalimar Dreams”. “Laila 11″ was one of the highlights of the evening for me with a real journey into the psychedelic 60s, Rich’s angry guitar, wild Hammond playing, some wah-wah guitar from Marc Ford with the drummer Joe Magistro all over his kit. This instrumental had it all and was greeted with huge applause. The guys were clearly enjoying themselves. Marc Ford took the vocal on his own composition the aforementioned “Shalimar Dreams” as Rich played on his gold-top Les Paul. “Black Cloud” was next – another Hookah Brown song – the power and energy were immense with John showing his powerful vocal talents.
After the intense excitement it was time to take it down a notch or two. Just Rich, John, and Marc on stage with their acoustic guitars, “Sister Moon” was first with John showing a different side to his voice, followed by “She” by Gram Parsons with Rich taking over on vocal duties – beautiful, moving, wow!
Next was the first Black Crowes song of the night, “How much for your wings”. This started off in acoustic form before the rest of the band joined in with Rich and Marc swapping their acoustic guitars for Strats. Rich, with his Vox AC30 on 11, treated us to some amazing overdriven distortion. This psychedelic confusion between Marc and Rich was simply wonderful with controlled feedback to the end – another highlight of the night. Rich swapped the Stratocaster for a 12-string Gretch semi-acoustic for “Walk on Water”, this was another favourite and title track off the debut studio album.
Rich thanked everyone for coming out to see them and then straight into “Mary the Gypsy”. An excellent version of the Black Crowes “Black Moon Creeping” followed, gaining the biggest applause of the night. The Magpie Salute were on a roll and they were clearly enjoying themselves tonight. Yet another Crowes song with “Another Roadside Tragedy” – what a Monday night!
Rich then took to the microphone to say how much he loved coming out to play for us all and that how great it was that audiences in Europe were watching the show and not on their phones all night. He then explained that they weren’t going to bother with going off and waiting for us all to cheer before they came back on for the encore to save a little bit of time as we were getting near to curfew time. A loud “More” cheer from the crowd and straight into “Jealous Again”, it doesn’t get any better than this. Final song of the night was the excellent “Send me an Omen” which is the current single playing on Rock Radio station.
So that’s it, close to 2 hours of a band at the top of the game, Wow I want more. I always judge a gig by, would I do it all again on another night of the tour and the answer in this case is Yes. Now where are they playing next?
Review and Photos by David Pickles