Much like the lovingly recrafted Islington Assembly Hall where this gig took place, Snakecharmer are an example of how to reimagine a vintage classic and create something new. The classic rock ‘supergroup’, boasting respected alumni from the likes of Whitesnake, Wishbone Ash and Thunder began life purely covering Whitesnake classics, but went on to record an excellent album of originals and 18 months on still believe in the new material for it to form the lions share of the live set.
There was a well matched support in Raw Glory, ploughing a similar blues rock furrow, albeit at times in a slower, raunchier fashion with hints of AC/DC and Nazareth, particularly in the gravel toned voice of singer Paul Manzi. Mixing originals such as ‘City Life’, ‘Bad Girls’ and ‘White Lies’ with some well chosen covers such as Rose Tattoo’s ‘Rock n Roll Outlaw’, they impressed a crowd that gradually thickened after a slow start.
Heavy Metal Kids guitarist Cosmo produced some elegantly tasteful solos, wringing a great tone out of his Les Paul, while Andy Hodge and Phil Martini were a classy rhythm section. An authentic workout through Montrose’s ‘Rock Candy’ – on the grounds of Cosmo’s similarity to Ronnie Montrose – and a fun medley of Marseille and ‘Fight for Your Right to Party’ ended a set which warmed things up nicely.
Having been around for a while in various incarnations the time is now right for Raw Glory to make a real push for a piece of the action.
Opening with ‘Guilty As Charged’, Snakecharmer straight away set out their template of classic blues-influenced rock with a strong riff and excellent solos from both guitarists, and Magnum’s Mark Stanway doing a fine job deputising on keyboards for Adam Wakeman, before ‘A Little Love’ called to mind Free’s The Stealer, not least in the Rodgers- esque vest and twirling microphone of Chris Ousey. The singer seemed to have grown in confidence as a frontman even if he struggles to make himself heard in his between song intros.
However it is inevitable that the old Whitesnake songs will be the most anticipated and ‘Ready an Willin’g kicked the oldies off in fine style, with some intuitive guitar interplay between Micky Moody and Laurie Wisefield, the former’s bluesy tones complemented by the latter’s fluid, melodic style.
Having spent their most successful years in twin attacks with Bernie Marsden and Andy Powell respectively, both know how to make guitar partnership work successfully. Moreover they are both a delight to watch visually with Micky’s facial expressions and Laurie tilting his diminutive frame backwards as he wrenched every least inch out of his solos.
The ‘new’ songs are now well known and ‘Cover Me In You’ and ‘Accident Pron’e both had a commercial feel to them while what might otherwise have been a rather dull ballad ‘Falling Leaves’, was enlivened by a sweet, winding solo from Laurie.
‘Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues’ received the best reception yet, but they continued to mix new numbers in between the familiar, notably Micky’s trademark solo slot leading into a very respectable version of ‘Slow an Easy’ with his slide guitar to the fore.
To be honest Chris is the least Coverdale-sounding of the various singers Micky and Neil Murray have worked with playing old ‘snakes material, his voice being slightly more higher pitched, but in no way did this affect people’s enjoyment of ‘Here I Go Again’, complete with audience participation, before one of the unfairly neglected Snake classics, ‘Take Me With You’, gave the band a chance to stretch out somewhat.
By the time of a solitary encore of ‘Fool For Your Lovin’, ending a set a tad on the short side, here was a relaxed, almost party atmosphere and it was great to see the experienced musicians still take such a pride in their work.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening with some fine pros who know how to put on a show and play classic rock at its finest but just as important are refusing to be mired in the past.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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DARWIN Cosmic Rays (indie)
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12:00-13:00 WHITESNAKE Flesh & Blood (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 BUFORD POPE The Waiting Game (Unchained Records)
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