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Snakecharmer @ The Robin, Bilston, Wolverhampton (24/1/14)

posted 14 Feb 2014, 14:55 by Paul Woodward

Review By Woody

Young Midlands rockers Fahran were tonight’s opening act, I’ve not seen these guys before but I was intrigued and curious to check them out ever since vocalist Matt Black joined them last year. Having seen Black perform on a few occasions, most notably with UK AOR act Serpentine I know he’s an entertaining front man so was expecting tonight to get kick-started with a bang. They are one man down tonight with guitarist Jake Graham out of action so they go ahead with just guitarist Chris Byrne and a mop decorated to look like the M.I.A Graham. If this had an effect on the sound of the band I’m unsure as I have no experience to compare it to.

It was indeed an explosive start and the band as a whole gave energetic performances although they had very little room, but you could tell they were itching to be on a bigger stage to fully let loose. Black was his usual charismatic and comedic self but he kept the chat to a minimum in order to get as many songs into their set as possible to maximise their exposure to tonight’s decent sized crowd who reacted exceedingly positively to the bands heavy edged and contemporary rock style. Half way through their set I felt they could appeal to fans of The Treatment, but I’m not sure if this was down to a well chosen set to cater to a classic rock crowd as Black points out from the stage they have some really heavy shit in their arsenal. I really enjoyed the vast majority of what was played tonight, the last two songs seemed to lose a little of the impetus established by the band, but I’ve been suitably interested to make sure I get my hands on their next album and the first featuring Black.

This is a very different style of music for Black in comparison to Serpentine and their pure AOR and I’m impressed by the versatility in his voice as wraps his skills around a harder edged sound. Ones to definitely watch I think, I’ll be keeping an eye on the gig listings to hopefully see these guys again soon.

Some may see Snakecharmer as a glorified Whitesnake cover band albeit with ex-snake alumni Micky Moody and Neil Murray in their ranks, but with a classy blues rock album under their belt they are very much their own band. So with that in mind I was hoping that the set wasn’t dominated by blues era snake tunes and it was a real pleasure that they balanced the set well and played plenty of their own songs whilst never disappointing those obviously out for a night of Whitesnake hits of yester year! There was a sizeable turn out tonight which was great to see and the crowd got increasingly noisy and interactive as the night wore on especially and expectedly to the old Snake hits.

I was an overly excited fan boy at the prospect of finally seeing vocalist Chris Ousey for the very first time as a huge fan of his AOR output with Heartland and Virginia Wolf. He didn’t disappoint either, although sometimes his vocals dipped too low in the mix for my liking his distinct voice sent chills frequently and he can sing the bluesy swagger of these songs with a killer impact. Ousey has a cool and confident stage presence and works the crowd well, he keeps the chat to a minimum but says enough to keep the crowd invested and captivated in the show. Now all I need is to win the lottery, hire the Robin then make Ousey an offer he can’t refuse to come and perform Heartland’s ‘Bridge Of Fools’ album in its entirety complete with me on backing vocals on ‘I’ll Wait For You’.

Anyone who knows the names of Snakecharmer’s personnel will know it’s a super group with a wealth of experience and so no one will be surprised at what a tight live unit they are and that they put on a magnificent and utterly entertaining set of blues infused classic rock, Harry ‘Thunder’ James even gets a drum solo! I was impressed with Keyboardist Adam Wakeman an ivory tinkler with a great feel for classic rock and some of his Hammond work really brought the best out in many of the songs. Moody is a killer blues guitarist as most here tonight vocally made sure I was aware of this fact and I was really impressed with his playing and he seemed faultless tonight, he has a very comedic stage presence and in the way he plays but it never distracts from his natural ability to crank out the blues.

Admittedly the Snakecharmer album took a few spins to sink in with me but it seems these songs were written for the live arena with a lot of the songs having so much more impact and been far more gratifying in the raw, ‘A Little Rock and Roll’, ‘Accident Prone’ and ‘Smoking Gun’ amongst others all really getting me grooving. Like I stated earlier this was far from a Whitensnake revival so when those tracks were played the crowds appreciation was very vocal and Ousey didn’t have to work very hard to get the crowd to interact and sing these well known choruses back at him. For me the highlights of the old hits were the songs that closed the night ‘Here I Go Again’ and solitary encore ‘Fool For Your Loving’ – obviously performed in their original blues style as opposed to the well known slick produced versions of commercial era Snake.

A great night’s entertainment and if your yet to see these guys live don’t hesitate to buy a ticket and head out to a show and find out for yourselves.