Gig review: SNAKECHARMER – Islington Academy, 13 November 2015

None of us knew it at the time, but Snakecharmer’s winter tour, including this London date, proved to be Micky Moody’s farewell to the band, leaving them in a state of flux. On the night however it was a night of classic British rock as it should be played by a band with an unimpeachable pedigree, containing not just Micky and fellow Whitesnake alumnus Neil Murray but ex Wishbone Ash guitarist Laurie Wisefield, Harry James, still very much of Thunder and Adam from the famous Wakeman keyboard dynasty.

SNAKECHARMER - Islington Academy, 13 November 2015

Fitting in three bands on a night when the punters are evacuated by 10pm to make way for a club night is a logistical nightmare. As a result I completely missed the opening support band Damn Dice who are beginning to make a name for themselves, and Bad Touch also took the stage soon after 7 to an emptyish hall.

This may have been one of the reasons why even charismatic singer Stevie found it harder to get a crowd going, compared to when I saw them support The Answer and Tyketto earlier in the year.  Or it may just be that the Snakecharmer demographic of fans of a certain age have seen more blues rock bands than they care to mention, and it takes something special to impress them.

Bad Touch - Islington Academy, 13 November 2015

Rob Glendinning is a fine if somewhat introverted guitarist with some great slide playing, and they have an impressive diversity of songs, from the title track of debut album ‘Halfway Home’ which sounds like the Black Crowes at their most Americana influenced, to the epic ‘Preacher’ with its Zeppelin style riffing to the saucy set closer ‘Down’. Nevertheless with a short set and a smaller audience this would have been one of their more challenging shows.

It’s now two years since Snakecharmer produced the perfect riposte to critics who marked them as a glorified Whitesnake tribute by recording an excellent album of original compositions. While on this occasion there was no trace of the new material they have reportedly been writing, their own work still featured prominently including an opening duo of ‘Guilty As Charged’, and ‘A Little Love’, where the Free comparisons did not end with Chris Ousey’s Rodgers-esque vest and twirling mike combo, and Micky had a late song vocal cameo.

SNAKECHARMER - Islington Academy, 13 November 2015

The old Whitesnake favourites were also given a fresh twist with Micky and Laurie trading improvised, funky lead  lines on ‘Ready An Willing’, while ‘Ain’t Gonna Cry No More’, with some great shifts of mood, featured mid-song some very progressive organ sounds from Adam, more reminiscent of his father’s seventies exploits.

‘Accident Prone’ had the classic harmony guitars so associated with Laurie’s former band, while the ballad ‘Falling Leaves’ gave Chris more of a chance to shine, though for all his technical vocal ability I still have nagging doubts that he gives off the warmth and charisma of the best frontmen.

The surprise of the night was surely to see them vary the selection of old ‘Snake songs and play ‘Crying In The Rain’, where Adam again delivered a spectacular solo, reminding me of Rowlf from the Muppet Show as his hair flapped from side to side,  before another from Laurie substantially improvised from the original.

SNAKECHARMER - Islington Academy, 13 November 2015

However Micky’s near eight minute solo slot seemed to have become over-familiar judging from the way the front of the crowd thinned out for trips to the bar before his trademark slide enlivened ‘Slow An Easy’.

Considering it was a Friday night, the gig seemed somewhat subdued and there was not the sense of band and crowd enthusiasm rubbing off on each other. However ‘My Angel’, opened by Adam on additional acoustic guitar, was easily the best received of the new songs and ‘Here I Go Again’- with the ‘proper’ organ introduction –finally generated some participation, although I was playing a game of looking round to see who fell on which side of the pre-and post-1987 divide and sang ‘hobo’ or ‘drifter’.

There was a solitary and inevitable encore of ‘Fool For Your Lovin’, with Chris performing some vocal gymnastics, albeit with a voice pitched significantly higher than Mr Coverdale, and Micky and Laurie swapping solos.

SNAKECHARMER - Islington Academy, 13 November 2015

It was not a vintage Snakecharmer gig, at least not compared to their previous shows at the nearby Assembly Hall, but as always a fun night out with pedigree musicians in a classic tradition of melodic, blues-influenced rock. Now that this particular chapter has closed, it will now be interesting to see what the future holds in the uncertainty surrounding Micky’s departure.

Review and Photos by Andy Nathan

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