Royal Southern Brotherhood may be considered the latest super group on the circuit, but the label appeared irrelevant to a line-up that celebrated its wealth of talent with a breathtaking two hour set.
RSB is the considerable sum of its many talented parts. The band delivered a rip roaring, but beautifully paced set that explored rock, blues, funk and soul in equal measure and was anchored by the tightest rhythm sections in the south, comprising powerhouse drummer Yonrico Scott and bassist Charlie Wooton.
There’s a historic depth, a subtle musical balance and a mutual respect at the heart of this band. The set drew on the band’s self titled debut album as well as band members solo albums, The Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead and of course the blues.
Taken as a whole, the show was presented much like an old fashioned review, with Cyril’s soulful voice and crisp percussion balancing out Mike Zito ‘s Americana impulses and Devon’s latino tinged guitar and baritone vocals. And when all the elements came together as on ‘Fire On The Mountain’ they moved your soul, and mesmerised your senses.
The evening was topped and tailed by the impressive Samantha Fish who started solo, but was soon joined by the RSB rhythm section and finally by her producer Mike Zito, for a stonking duet on ‘Kick Around’ from her ‘Black Moon Howlin’ CD.
If this was an impressive hors d’œuvre then the main course surpassed everything you could have hoped for.
RSB opened with a mighty percussive groove of Paul Butterfield’s ‘You Can Run But You Can’t Hide’, which featured Devon soloing over Mike’s funky rhythm, as Cyril emoted over the peerless rhythm section. Mike switched to a flying V for his own ‘Hurts My Heart’, a funky number with a great riff and Devon took the lead vocal on the suitably titled ‘Gotta Keep Rockin’.
Cyril got all low down and funky on ‘Magic Honey’, and the set caught fire on the show stopping cover of The Dead’s ‘Fire On The Mountain’. Cyril’s vocal sounded like Marley, while Allman and Zito beautifully constructed a mesmerising jam that will stay in the memory for years to come.
How to follow that? The band called up Mike Zito to rebuild the momentum on the gently nuanced Americana of ‘Gone To Texas’. By the time the band launched into ‘Fired Up’ they had done their stuff, stoked up the crowd and just had enough time for Cyril to cover Mike Bloomfield’s resonant ‘Working Man’, before the return of Sam Fish for a duet with Devon on Tom Petty’s ‘Stop Draggin My Heart’.
The climactic version of Sonny Boy’s ‘One Way Out’ rounded off the perfect gig by a band worthy of their super group tag whether they like it or not.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Adrian Gee
Nigel Foster writes
Sometimes when you are going to a gig you just know it is going provide one of those ‘I was there’ moments and last night Royal Southern Brotherhood at The Boom Boom was one of those occasions. On arrival the crackle in the atmosphere was palpable.
This was Southern rock royalty coming to a small outpost of South West London. RSB is a band of unparalleled pedigree. How honoured were those of us lucky enough to be there to have an Allman and Neville on the plot?
Last night I musically journeyed thousands of miles to the deep south of Americana, but my passport stayed at home.
A huge mention must go to the fabulously talented Samantha Fish who delivered a stunning 45 minute set that showed she has the blues coursing through her veins and bags of confidence to match, as she opened for the band and joined them for their encore.
But nothing could have prepared me for the next two hours as Royal Southern Brotherhood delivered a spellbinding set that was beguiling and utterly relentless in its intensity.
The band is peerless in terms of musicality and personality and the component parts make up the true definition of a band. The rhythm section of bass player Charlie Wooton and drummer Yonrico Scott laid down massive grooves like giant slabs of granite, rock solid and impenetrable.
The one and only Cyril Neville was a whirling dervish of energy on percussion and vocals. One minute he was a soul brother, the next a gospel leader and then he wailed like a banshee. Magnificent.
And then, oh yes, the sublime twin guitar attack of Mike Zito and the absolute living legend that is Devon Allman. I still cannot believe I stood a few mere feet from a bonafide Allman!
To watch these two absolute masters ply there trade was unforgettable. They traded blows, sparring as they swapped licks and jabbed at each other with hammer blow riffs, delivering knockout solo after solo.
This kind of talent is God given and instinctive, with Zito and Allman’s contrasting styles and techniques producing totally unique sounds. One second they were shredding fingers and strings with raw aggression, the next literally dancing feather light from one end of the fret board to the other.
In Mike Zito they have an absolute ‘slide master’ , while Devon Allman is gifted with an innate ability to mix a beautiful tone and melody with searing lead breaks and riffs. Between them they take the twin guitar harmony style to a new stratospheric level.
It is almost seems disrespectful to single out individual songs as every one was a 24 carat gem. ‘New Horizon’ was infectious groove tearing along on greased rails. ‘Left My Heart In Memphis’ was an atmospheric beauty, with Allman pouring out a gorgeous deep vocal and Zito adding a piercing extended slide solo.
‘Fire On The Mountain’ saw Neville go front and centre with a latino infused vocal laid over a monstrous metronomic drum and bass groove, threaded by taut lead runs from the two gunslingers. ‘Gotta Keep Rockin’ was a thunderous Allman vocal nailed to a bulldozing double riff from the two guitarist.
I adored ‘All Around the World’, a real anthemic Southern Blues vibe with another pulsating riff punctuated by massive bass lines and jack hammer riffs.
The atmosphere at The Boom Boom was electric and the crowd were swept along on a tide of total brilliance. At the end the band said that they’d had a truly wonderful time and that looked totally genuine. It was unforgettable experience!
Photos by Adrian Gee
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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