Live Review: The Magpie Salute – Glasgow

Rich Robinson, onstage again with Marc Ford? The guitar partnership on The Black Crowes’ ‘Southern Harmony And Musical Companion’, one of the most bona fide classic albums… period? Where do I sign? Along with fellow Crowes alumni Sven Pipien, the pair are back making sweet music together. Throw the incredible vocals from Britain’s John Hogg into that mix, with drummer Joe Magistro and keys man Matt Slocum, and the end result is The Magpie Salute. A travelling musical family, on their long-awaited debut UK tour.

Kent four-piece Maker have the task of warming the crowd up at the most un-rock n’ roll time of 7.15pm. Vocalist Alessandro Marinelli asks what kind of time is that to start a gig. Guitarist Andrew Donaldson jokes that the band have only just woken up. There are about thirty people savvy enough to get in for the early doors. Thirty or so lucky people having their ears caressed by the “Rock N Soul, Rhythm N Roll” outfit.

Early indications from the nodding heads gathered on the barrier, is that Marinelli sounds like Steve Marriott. High praise indeed. Yes, there are moments (when the sound stops misbehaving) when you might get flashes of the much-missed Small Faces and Humble Pie legend. There is a lot of soul in his voice, and there is a spark about him that says, ”pay attention”. Maker get thirty minutes to make their mark (too predictable?) and they make the most of the short time. It’s a classic ‘70’s inspired sound that the band purvey, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all when it’s played with such passion and skill. Andrew Donaldson can make that guitar sing as he lays down, not just the usual beefy riffs, but also some soulful licks with a hint of funk. With Gavin Donaldson on drums, the pair have family in attendance, and they are making their presence felt! By the time Maker (completed with bassist John Austin) end their set, the room has started to fill up. It’s still relatively quiet though, which is a great shame, as Maker are another band to add to that already bulging list of young British bands to watch out for. They have a new album out, ‘Dead Ends & Avenues’. Do check it out, it’s very smooth.

With very little fanfare, The Magpie Salute take to the stage, plug in, and gently ease their way into ‘High Water’ from the album bearing the same name. Marc Ford is over on the far side gently caressing a beautiful tone out of his stunning white Gretsch. All eyes are on him as he takes the first solo of the evening. Damn, it is good to have him back on stage again. The Magpie Salute are not a cookie cutter band, the live versions of songs are lengthier than the ones you will hear from the studio. Hence, the opening trio of ‘High Water’, ‘Omission’, and a gorgeous rendition of ‘For The Wind’, stretch out to twenty or so minutes. Both Ford and Rich Robinson add their flourishes to each song, giving them an extra dimension. Think of the album as the DVD version, whereas the live versions are the 4K UHD equivalent.

‘Take It All’ is another moment that benefits from the freshness that The Magpie Salute bring to their material live. Oodles of sweet slide guitar from Ford, who makes it look effortless. From here, it’s into cover version territory. If you have the self-titled live album they released last year, then you should know what to expect. With a massive songbook to choose from, we get Delaney & Bonnie’s ‘Comin’ Home’, and the Small Faces’ ‘Rollin’ Over’. Later on the band deliver a cosmic version of The Flying Burrito Brothers’ ‘Christine’s Tune’. Marc Ford takes lead vocals on one of his own songs, ‘Smoke Signals’, with Hogg saying that “we’re all going to sing one of Marc’s songs”. Hogg is a revelation. Having previously played with Robinson in the short-lived Hookah Brown, there is a chemistry between the two that is obvious for all to see. The warm vocals reaching through the muggy sound. Just one of the many highlights of the evening.

Mid set, Pipien, Magistro, and Slocum leave the stage, as Hogg, Ford, and Robinson break out the acoustic guitars. It’s a strange fifteen minutes or so. It’s incredible watching the trio run through ‘Sister Moon’, the aforementioned ‘Christine’s Tune’ and ‘Oh Josephine’, especially when they all gather round the same microphone. Acoustic segments won’t drown out the chatterers in the crowd. So much so that during ‘Oh Josephine’, Robinson stops singing and addresses the guilty parties…”Every time I stop, I hear an asshole yapping away… I’m sure what you are saying is really important… why don’t you finish your conversation?” Cue loud roars of approval from the crowd! Fingers are pointed at those at the bar, and it’s noticeable that when the full band kick back in, the sound is ramped up.

During a mammoth jam, where Matt Slocum flexes his muscles on the keys, the atmosphere starts to dip, and to an extent, you can sense what is coming next. It’s got to be a big Crowes track, and the intro to ‘Sometimes Salvation’ comes pouring off the stage. The energy levels rise again as most in the crowd recognise it. The Magpie Salute stay with Robinson’s iconic forerunners as they tear into ‘Gone’ and a surprising show-stopper, ‘By Your Side’. It’s show-stopping in many ways, as Robinson explains that they have to finish now to make way “For the disco, and the kids dancing. It kinda sucks as music is going away…” With artists like The Magpie Salute, there is no danger of music ever going away.

Review: Dave S

Images: Dave J

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