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Concert Reviews:
The Magpie Salute lets Black Crowes' freak flag fly again at Saint Andrews

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Monday, July 31, 2017

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DETROIT -- The Magpie Salute is a bird of a same color, and feather, for Rich Robinson. The same flight pattern, too.

And no complaints about that, which made the 10-piece group’s Detroit debut on Sunday, July 30, at Saint Andrews Hall a, er, “Remedy” for fans who have been missing the Black Crowes since that group broke up, seemingly for good, in 2015.

Related: The Magpie Salute at Saint Andrews, 5 Things To Know

The Magpie Salute reunites guitarist Robinson with Crowes mates Marc Ford and Sven Pipien, the latter of whom has been in Robinson’s own band during the past year or so. On Sunday it embraced its roots with a 20-song, two-hour-plus concert not only loaded with Crowes material (11 songs) but also following the group’s trademark ebb-and-flow ethos combining punchy rockers such as the opening “Gone,” “Paint An 8,” “Stare It Cold” and the hard-grooving “Omission,” which Robinson introduced as “the first official Magpie song,” with lengthy, ambitious, sophisticated instrumental excursions that particularly showed off the renewed six-string chemistry between Robinson and Ford that was the hallmark of the Black Crowes’ early days.

Among the latter was a fiery rendition of Humble Pie’s “Rolling Stone” that also showed off vocalist John Hogg’s emotive, soulful pipes and a Southern-flavored take on the Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’.” The Magpie Salute -- playing in front of a large backdrop tapestry sporting the group’s logo -- also amped up the epic quality of the Black Crowes’ “Wiser Time,” adding a muscular, guitar-drenched intro and then letting the song wind and breathe through an arrangement that gave plenty of solo room to Robinson and Ford as well as keyboardist Matt Slocum.

Robinson and Ford showcased their solo material as well -- “Shipwreck” and “The Giving Key” for the former, “the Neil Young-styled “Smoke Signals” and “I’m Free” for the latter -- while the Crowes’ catalog was given a nice nesting from classics (“Jealous Again,” “Remedy”) to welcome die-hard favorites such as “Good Morning Captain,” “Under A Mountain” and “Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye.”

The group is clearly still a work in progress; Robinson, who sang lead on four songs, spent much of the set visibly conducting the troupe -- sometimes to distraction -- through its arrangements, although everyone seemed intuitive enough to keep any miscues or meanderings hidden. The audio mix, too, grappled with the size of the ensemble, often burying Hogg and the three backing vocalists as well as Slocum within the very loud wall of sound.

But there was also an earthy appeal to the those rough-and-tumble moments, an indication the Magpie Salute was not, and will likely never be, a slick proposition but rather than organic and dynamic exposition of music in the moment -- which is what suits Robinson and company, as well as their audience, best.

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