Gig review: THE MAGPIE SALUTE – Under The Bridge, London, 13 April 2017

Despite having to venture way too close for personal comfort to this very interesting venue situated in the guts of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge home, the London debut of Rich Robinson’s new travelling band of musical gypsies, The Magpie Salute, gave a revealing glimpse of great potential, informed and influenced by a gold mine legacy of blues, Americana and soul.

Like many, I was left distraught by yet another Black Crowes collapse. However, just like a once-powerful but now sadly-ended marriage can, after all the trauma and heartache, produce two independently mature and well-functioning adults and/or parents, Rich Robinson’s Magpie Salute remind us that we are doubly-blessed.

Where once the Crowes marched (or flew) triumphant, we now have both Chris Robinson’s Brotherhood and The Magpie Salute touring the Crowes classics as well as regaling us with inspiring new material and interpretations of lesser-known but well-chosen covers.

With their new album due in June, The Magpie Salute embarked on selected dates in New York and London to road-test the band ahead of a sizeable summer tour of US dates and festival appearances.

I’m a big fan of big bands in a numerical sense and with an accomplished line-up of ten on stage, Rich and the Salute are destined for great things – most importantly executed by players of outstanding pedigree, finding their way a bit but like Conte’s Chelsea revolution, led by perfectionist band-leader Robinson to the Promised Land.

Featuring Rich on guitars and sometimes vocals, former Crowes cohorts in guitarist Marc Ford and bassist Sven Pipien, drummer Joe Magistro (check out his excellent solo band, Prophet Omega), Argentinian guitarist Nico Bereciartua, John Hogg (Hookah Brown, Mike), Matt Slocum on keys and backing singers Charity White (another former Crowe), Adrien Reju and Katrine Ottosen, The Magpie Salute is like hanging with an old school buddy – easy to find common ground, a powerful friendship which blossoms through mutual respect and thrives on united purpose.

Perhaps a tad under-rehearsed but still cool as it navigates these first tentative steps, the band tore through a satisfying set of Crowes classics (‘Horsehead’, ‘Wiser Time’, ‘Cursed Diamond’, ‘P25 London’, ‘Ballad in Urgency’ amongst many others), Robinson and Ford solo originals and a smattering of Allman Brothers, Faces, Terry Reid, Delaney and Bonnie (and even Bob Marley) covers.

In their respective bands, the brothers Robinson’s seemingly limitless ability to deliver a totally different set list every night is mind blowing in itself and a testament to the phenomenal musicians that Rich has brought together in this band.

Somewhat beset by nagging sound problems (which to be fair, were probably only evident to the band and their sound crew), Rich seemed a little tense as he and his band tested the new combination on adoring and expectant London punters.

In retrospect, this was understandable given the high standards he has set throughout his career but like Conte and Chelsea, Robinson has strength in all positions and, as this band gels tighter and everyone relaxes and really starts to freely express themselves, The Magpie Salute will become a firm and much appreciated fixture in your gig calendar.

Review by Mark ‘Mad Dog’ Shaw

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