Here’s a turn up for the books. When Snakecharmer first formed as Monsters of British Rock there was some cynicism at the latest version of ex- Whitesnake members Micky Moody and Neil Murray once again reliving the days of what many of us see as the definitive early, bluesier version of the band.
Early shows essentially mined this back catalogue and even at their press launch just over a year ago, where the stellar cast of musicians were formally unveiled, they seemed unnecessarily modest in their ambitions.
Yet wind forward and an album of all original compositions, classic in influence yet fresh sounding, is an early contender for album of 2013, and a bigger than expected crowd is almost filling the Islington Assembly Hall. With the venue lovingly restored to its 1930’s pomp and with good sound and sightlines, and the regulars on the London rock scene seemingly all out together for the first time this year, it was a marvellous evening.
Adding to Snakecharmer’s sense of rebirth, they took a chance with a set that heavily promoted the new album: by my reckoning all but two songs off it were played, opening with Guilty as Charged, which had the feel of Foreigner’s earliest rocking days, and A Little Rock n Roll, with a stripped back Free vibe and Micky Moody helping out on vocals.
Ready an Willing both delighted the old fans and was given a fresh dimension with some almost funky jamming, before more newies that showed off the band’s diversity: the straight ahead Accident Prone, featuring the twin guitar leads you would expect from a band also featuring a former Wishbone Ash stalwart in the ever youthful Laurie Wisefield, To the Rescue, which had an almost Stax soul feel and the laid back Falling Leaves, with a marvellous solo from Laurie.
Rather than being a mere Coverdale copyist, Chris Ousey’s voice is pitched somewhere between Lou Gramm and Paul Rodgers (the vest top and twirling mike stand adding to the comparisons) but suits old and new songs alike. It is great to see him finally reach a wider audience although his rather diffident stage presence and between song chat is hardly surprising as previous bands Virginia Wolf and Heartland rarely seemed to tour.
After the perennial Walking in the Shadow of the Blues, Smoking Gun was perhaps the highlight of the new songs with an adventurous feel including some suitably proggy keyboard sounds (was it a moog?) from Adam Wakeman, before one of Micky’s trademark traditional blues solos and Slow ‘an’ Easy showed off his trademark slide guitar prowess.
Cover Me In You and Nothing to Lose were perhaps two of the less distinguished new songs so it was high time for some crowd pleasers and a Here I Go Again pitched somewhere between old and new versions saw some rather hammy participation, which I enjoyed, but which was rather eclipsed by a cracking Take Me With You, all of the band getting mini solo slots in turn.
The sense of the new even continued through to the encores with Micky joking they had become a three guitar southern rock band as Adam added additional guitar at the start of My Angel, perhaps the song closest to Chris’ AOR roots, before a storming version of Fool For Your Loving generated a real party atmosphere.
The pedigree of these seasoned musicians goes without saying and they know how to put on a show. What was the real revelation here was how they are facing the future rather than looking back and it was telling that , as fans mingled for a meet and great afterwards, no-one was complaining that there wasn’t enough old Whitesnake material. In a market heavily dominated by nostalgia, that is quite something.
Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Noel Buckley
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