Arts & Style

The Magpie Salute gives consolidation to fans through first tour in New York

When the famed Southern rock group The Black Crowes broke up in 2015, the two volatile brothers who started the band, singer Chris Robinson and guitarist Rich Robinson, each went their own way. The former started a new band, aptly named The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, which mixed together blues and psychedelia with a strong live band that frequently tours with an ever-changing set list.

As for Rich Robinson, he has mostly continued with a solo career, occasionally getting other gigs performing with legendary bands like Bad Company during their 2016 U.S. tour. Last October, Rich Robinson announced that he would be forming a new band called The Magpie Salute. The band would feature other former Crowes members like guitarist Marc Ford and bass guitarist Sven Pipien. The band’s longtime keyboard player Eddie Harsch was set to be included in the lineup, but suddenly died less than a month after the band’s formation.

In addition to the familiar faces, new members include John Hogg on lead vocals, Nico Bereciartua on guitar, Matt Slocum on keyboards, Joe Magistro on drums and Charity White, Adrien Reju and Katrine Ottosen on backing vocals. Earlier this year, the band performed its first shows with four sold-out nights at New York City’s Gramercy Theatre and has been on the road ever since. The band recently returned to the city with two nights at Irving Plaza, not too far away from its debut venue.

The concept of the band is very similar to that of the defunct Beady Eye, another band made up of various personnel from a group helmed by vitriolic brothers, Oasis. While The Chris Robinson Brotherhood is an entirely new concept from the ground up, The Magpie Salute more or less picks up where The Black Crowes had left off. Some could view this as a cynical attempt at living off the Crowes’ legacy. Others could see this as giving the Crowes experience to both long time fans and those who did not get a chance to see that band during its existence.

Whichever way one looks at it, they cannot deny that The Magpie Salute is a strong live act in its own right. Even with no original material of its own, the band makes the best of the large backlog of Crowes material.

While The Magpie Salute is not reliant on lengthy jams like The Black Crowes or even The Chris Robinson Brotherhood is, each show on its tour is completely different than the last. Since the band claimed to have rehearsed more than 100 songs before touring, it is very understandable why the members would want to switch things up each night.

Their repertoire is not limited to Crowes songs either. Songs from Rich Robinson’s and Ford’s solo careers are also performed, with both taking up lead vocals on their respective songs. The band also busted out some cover songs from bands like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Free, among many others.

As mentioned earlier, the set list is made up mostly of Crowes material. In an effort to please the fans, a lot of the songs that were chosen for the show were mostly deep cuts. A similar addition was noticeable for The Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s shows, whenever the band featured old band material.

Most spiritual successor bands opt to play it safe and focus on only the recognizable songs. These shows, however, end up becoming a treat for both longtime and newer Crowes fans. Fogg’s vocals on these songs manage to pay tribute to the Crowes while adding a new approach to singing, though it takes a little while to get used to hearing the original band’s songs being sung by anyone other than Chris Robinson.

Surprisingly, Rich Robinson and Ford end up both receiving a sizeable amount of turns on the microphone. Aside from playing their own solo songs, they both helmed a lengthy acoustic middle portion of the show, mostly made up of covers from artists like Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers. One memorable moment came during The Black Crowes song “Exit.” Slocum concluded the song with a piano solo, during which the crowd started chanting “Eddie! Eddie!” in reference to departed member Hirsch. After the song, Rich acknowledged their chant and joked that “Eddie was smiling up there.”

Even without a debut studio album, The Magpie Salute’s first tour is hitting all the right notes for fans of The Black Crowes. Hopefully the band’s impending studio album will manage to expand on the overall Crowes sound without being too attached to the past. In some ways, The Magpie Salute gives the fans a consolation for what The Black Crowes could have done, had they not abruptly disbanded.

December 4, 2017

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