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Thursday, 6 December 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Magpie Salute (Live Review By Paul H)

The Magpie Salute & Maker, The Fiddlers Club

A damp and drizzly night in Bristol saw a capacity house crammed like sardines to witness an impressive if slightly soulless show from The Magpie Salute, the band formed by Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes. A later start time is the norm at Fiddlers, and whilst I have been here a couple of times before, it doesn’t have the warmth or character of other Bristol venues such as The Fleece or The Exchange.

At 9pm support band Maker (8) ambled onto the stage. By this time the main room was already packed to the rafters and having secured a decent vantage point for Mrs H we spent some of the evening with a very inconsistent security guard who insisted on standing in front of us because “it’s where I have to stand” before wandering off and returning at various intervals during the evening. Anyway, Maker is a four-piece from Kent who play bluesy rock n’ roll which was perfect for the evening. Vocalist Alessandro Marinelli was in fine form, his soulful voice matching the music and his humour also impressed.

“We’d love to chat, but we’ve got thirty minutes to get through first”. Alongside Marinelli, Andre Donaldson played some fine guitar whilst brother Gavin laid down a steady beat on drums. The band is completed by John Austin on bass. Their swagger has a warmth which was heartening whilst their Zeppelin, Faces and Primal Scream sound was both retro and current. With a selection of tracks from their recent debut album Dead Ends And Avenues (recorded at Rockfield Studios) aired through their set, this is a band who are worth a listen.

With the temperature soaring still higher, the 40-minute wait for The Magpie Salute (8) was a bit uncomfortable. Penned to one side of the venue, the bar was inaccessible due to the huge scrum in front of it. Still, we were there for the music and eventually Rich Robinson, Marc Ford and Sven Pipen, all former members of the Black Crowes of course joined by John Hogg, Joe Magistro and Matt Slocum entered the stage to a huge ovation and proceeded to deliver an eclectic and compelling two hours of delightful musical magic, drawn from their vast history and influences. Opening with the explosive title track from their High Water I album (from which eight tracks were played), the quality of the musicians on stage, which was never in doubt, was immediately demonstrated by a ten-minute extended jam which allowed Ford and Robinson to flex their fingers. The remainder of the set was incredibly varied, with What Goes On and Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ by the Velvet Underground, a track from Marc Ford’s own solo work, the fabulous Smoke Signals and a Rich Robinson solo song Yesterday I Saw You amongst the setlist.

Hogg is an efficient frontman, with a smoky drawl and an interesting stage presence. At times it was difficult to tell whether he was amused or irritated by the constant heckling that a couple of boorish members of the crowd felt was appropriate to hurl at the stage after each song had finished. Despite this, the band moved swiftly through an 18-track set, which also included a slower paced three song acoustic set, featuring Hogg, Ford and Robinson on acoustic guitars as they played Sister Moon from High Water I, You Don’t Have To Cry (Crosby, Stills and Nash) and the first of five Black Crowes songs, Lay It All On Me. Unfortunately, this was somewhat marred by the inevitable chatter that appears so prevalent at gigs these days. People. Shut the fuck up!

As the set moved into Black Crowes territory, and despite the obvious quality on stage, Magistro looking almost disinterested as he moved around his kit with consummate ease, whilst I don’t recall Slocum breaking his frown all evening, there was a feeling of a band who despite their close bonds and long history, appeared to lack the warmth you might expect to see. Maybe that’s down to the individual members, but there was little laughter, few smiles and an absence of the camaraderie you might expect from musicians who’ve worked together, in some cases for many years. Musically superb, the songs were brilliant and there was no doubting that this was a gig where the opportunity to be up close and personal was not to be sniffed at. Yet at the back of the mind, a slight niggle that there should be a bit more enjoyment on display. This may have been as much about us as it was about the band, as the sound was also variable throughout the evening, despite the prolonged sound check.

As The Magpie Salute finished their main set with the Crowes’ Horsehead and their own Send Me An Omen, we decided to beat a retreat before the rest of the crowd. An enjoyable evening slightly marred by the overfull venue and the inevitable idiots in the crowd.


  1. Sad to hear the band didn't seem to be enjoying themselves. Rich isn't known to be mr. happy face. Love this band and can't wait to see them in the states. Funny you bring up the annoyance of crowd rudeness. Just wrote a blog piece from a musicians POV and how these kinds of things we witness from the stage are a real buzz kill. Of course, there was criticism from funny enough, other musicians telling me to buck up and be grateful there are folks in front of you at all. First people disrespect music and musicians buy not paying for the music in many cases. Now we have to be grateful that they are there to begin with no matter what their behavior may be. They don't realize it's a buzz kill for many fans as well.

  2. I often find it challenges my enjoyment of a gig when people are talking through it. It then tempers my overall view which is often not anything to do with the band. We appear to be seeing it more and more over here, interestingly often amongst the gigs where the audience is a little more mature than the average rock crowd. Don't get me wrong, this was a really enjoyable gig but maybe the idiots in the crowd did rub off on the band a little.