Royal Southern Brotherhood – The Cluny Newcastle (2013)

Royal Southern Brotherhood
The Cluny

21st September 2013

After a spectacularly bad day at work, there was only one thing that could clear my mind; a hefty dose of superior Blues Rock was in order and the combination of local guitar slinger Mitch Laddie and the magnificent Royal Southern Brotherhood was the order of the day.

Playing in front of a home town crowd, The Mitch Laddie Band were the perfect warm up for The Royal Southern Brotherhood’s first night of a European tour, getting an already excitable crowd absolutely buzzing with excitement.

I’d missed Mitch’s gig at the same venue the previous week, when he’d recorded a Live album, for release in the New Year; and as usual he put his heart and soul into a forty minute powerhouse set showcasing his latest album, Burning Bridges with This Is Hip and Paper in Your Pocket sounding even funkier than when I saw him earlier in the year.

As each member of the band entered the stage they were greeted with a huge cheer from the decidedly middle-aged, crowd and the roar that greeted their actual introduction would have done the legendary Newcastle Mayfair Ballroom proud forty years previously.

The proceedings opened with Cyril Neville taking lead vocals on a real New Orleans style footstomper which allowed the dual guitars of Devon Allman and Mike Zito to get warmed up.

The vocals were to be passed around like a hot potato all night; with all three taking turns to varying degrees of success. Mike Zito’s voice was really suited to the forceful rock song that followed and he took the first of numerous opportunities to stand on the edge of the stage and lap up the adulation from the packed and sweaty crowd as he let loose with some really clever flourishes on his cool Delaney Flying V.

Devon Allman; on the other hand was the epitome of Southern Rock Aristocracy when he took the lead on Gotta Keep You Rockin’ from the band’s debut album. Don’t get me wrong; the blonde haired guitarist is no shrinking violet; he too wasn’t averse to wandering to the front of the stage, but there were no dramatics from him; he just stood there enjoying his moments in the spotlight.

The show carried on in that vein for just short of two hours with two great guitar players complementing each other when necessary and occasionally embarking on some pretty outrageous duels; but never enough to get in the way of the songs.

The undoubted star of the show though; was Cyril Neville who appeared to have been dressed by catapult but still looked like a Dandy playing a bespoke set of drums and assorted percussion while singing like a shady Angel.

On record Moon Over Mississippi bowled me over; but tonight it was a lot ‘heavier’ and guitar dominated, blossoming into a helluva Rock song.

Then Devon took over the vocals for a beautiful version of I Left My Heart in Memphis which maintained all the subtlety of the original and transported me into a seedy bar on the wrong side of the tracks.

Cyril and Mike Zito both included their own tracks in the set with the elder statesman providing plenty of Funk and Blues and the Charlie Sheen look-a-like plenty of Fire and Brimstone Rock music; while Allman contented himself with RSB songs.

As the band warmed up and gelled; the sound became ‘tighter’ and the three front men ‘bounced off’ each other as if they’d been playing together all of their lives.

About 2/3 the way through the evening Mike Zito was letting rip on Gulf of Mexico when someone shouted “Play that funky geetah, kidda!” Which is the most impressive thing I’ve ever heard at a concert; as it was a line in a little known song by a local band in 1980; but something I’ve used countless times in the intervening years to describe similar actions. Whoever you are sir; I salute you!

Just when I thought the night couldn’t get any better Devon began a song called Keep It Real (?) which evolved into something of a jam until as one he and Zito unclipped their guitars and followed Cyril off stage….oh no…..oh yes! It was the return of the interminable bass solo, which morphed into a drum solo!!! Aaaaaggghhhh! I honestly thought that I might cry when the crowd cheered as he began playing standing on one leg. How drunk do you have to be for that to become entertainment?

Thankfully the trio eventually came back and picked up where they’d left off and followed it with a real sleazy, blues tune by Zito called Natural Born Lover that made me want to check out more of his material.

When I checked my watch the band had been on stage just shy of two hours and showed no signs of leaving (the club has a curfew) until ‘cut throat’ signs were made and they eventually got the message; only for the crowd to scream and stomp their appreciation until they were allowed back for ‘no more than five minutes!’

As a cynical old music fan I was pleased to see Allman and Zito actually discuss what to play then tell the others what key it was going to be in – a real encore; not the hit single most bands keep for this part of the show.

What a song it turned out to be! Both guitarists went berserk as Cyril infused Gimmee Shelter with more voodoo and testosterone than a cat-house behind Beale Street!

Honestly; I can’t think of a finer ending to any concert in the last ten years; and I’ve seen a few.

The Royal Southern Brotherhood – carrying a torch for righteous music lovers everywhere.

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