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Snakecharmer / Rebecca Downes http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/8e/89/3c/Snakecharmer-Live-Review-Thumb-21-1496346456.jpg Hot

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Snakecharmer / Rebecca Downes - The Plug, Sheffield (UK) - 12 May 2017

A late arrival meant that I only caught the final song ('Believe') of Rebecca Downes' set. It sounded very good and, in hindsight, I wish I had got to the venue sooner. The main reason for my late arrival was due to the fact that I had been listening to the new Snakecharmer album 'Second Skin', having only been released this very day; a fact frequently mentioned by singer Chris Ousey in between each song. Ousey was my main motivation for coming out this evening; I have been a fan of his for many years, from Virginia Wolf and Heartland to his solo releases. However, in my thirty-five years of concert-going I had never seen the man perform live. I was interested to see if he could perform live in the same way as Thunder's Danny Bowes and FM's Steve "The Voice" Overland. I am happy to report the answer is a definite yes!

This was old-school, touring to support an album in the week of its release, and over half the set came from the aforementioned album, including opening numbers 'Follow Me Under' and 'Are You Ready To Fly' – the latter was particularly memorable. When you look at the pedigree of the band members of Snakecharmer, "super-group" is a deserved adjective. None more so than bassist Neal Murray, who played on the early Whitesnake albums when they were still a Heavy Rock Blues band. Murray stood, unassumingly, to the side of the stage and looked at his band mates like a proud father. 'Ready 'N' Willing' was the first of three Whitesnake covers; however, the band are not just about rehashing old "Snake classics", and have enough quality original material. The first song from the 2013 eponymous debut was the excellent 'Accident Prone'. Others played from the debut, were 'A Little Rock & Roll', 'Nothing To Lose' and 'Guilty As Charged', although, even after only a couple of listens, the newer material came across even better. Highlights being 'Where Do We Go From Here', the emotive 'I'll Take You As You Are' and the superb ballad 'Fade Away'. Ousey's vocals were sublime throughout, but probably the most impressive fact was how well all the members of the band jelled together.

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Ex-Whitesnake and original Snakecharmer guitarist Micky Moody left the band and was replaced by Northern Irish guitar virtuoso Simon McBride. It might be sacrilege to say, but the introduction of McBride has actually improved the band's sound, and, in my humble opinion, the quality of the songs on the sophomore release are far superior. McBride teams up perfectly with ex-Wishbone Ash guitarist Laurie Wisefield; both have their unique styles that work equally as well within the group. Snakecharmer's version of 'Crying In The Rain' is in the style of the original from 1982's 'Saints & Sinners' album, with Adam Wakeman's Hammond Organ very prominent in the mix. The band also includes Thunder and Magnum skins-man Harry James, who was obscured from view by the clear Perspex shields surrounding his kit – they obviously assisted with sound quality. Approximately one hundred and fifty fans took the opportunity to come out this evening, a far cry from the twelve thousand at the Arena earlier in the week to see Iron Maiden. Both shows were equally as enjoyable for me, although the sound was infinitely superior this evening in The Plug.

For most true Rock fans, it's impossible not to sing along to 'Here I Go Again' whether you can sing, or not, as was case with yours truly! So on cue, one hundred and fifty people sang together with the magnificent Ousey. Again, this was played in the original Heavy Blues style and not the post 1987 Metal fashion of the current Whitesnake.

Amusingly, the band walked off stage towards the bar, immediately turning around to get back on it for a one song encore of 'Dress It Up' from the new album. For fans of Hard Rock with a heavy Blues influence (i.e. pre-1987 Whitesnake), I recommend that you check out Snakecharmer – you won't be disappointed!

Mark Donnelly

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