The Electrifying Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures In Putney

It was a last-minute decision to head south of the river to the Half Moon in Putney to see Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures. It’s only an 18-mile trip, but one train and two tubes take an hour and a half each way. All this is to see someone I did not know who mentions a cover of Sultans of Swing in the first sentence of his biography. I left the venue later, though, with the biggest smile on my face and one of the biggest inspirations in my heart from all the shows I have covered for MetalTalk.

Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures

The Half Moon, Putney – 4 April 2024

Words: Steve Ritchie

Photography: Ryan Hildrew

The Half Moon was full of people of all ages, all more knowledgeable about all things Montalban than I. But from the opener, Wander, I was captivated. It’s four blokes on stage with long hair, but Oh, that sweet, sweet sound of the Les Paul.

Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures - The Half Moon, Putney - 4 April 2024
Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures – The Half Moon, Putney – 4 April 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

I’ve seen drummer Edoardo Mariotti play a number of times before. He and bassist Bruno Pint had their hair up, with rhythm guitarist Yuri Kufa and the maestro Montalban giving their hair license to roam.

Electrifying is, well, electrifying. I realise we are in instrumental territory, which is not an area that fills me with a lot of excitement. But there is a lot of melody in the guitars. The bass layers octaves with heavy funk. I think I’ve been listening to the wrong instrumental musicians in the past.

Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures - The Half Moon, Putney - 4 April 2024
Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures – The Half Moon, Putney – 4 April 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

Montalban loves the Wah. But the whole band works tightly on the dynamics. As the pace slows a touch, there is a call and answer between the guitars, a hint of Hendrix Wah. It builds to a crescendo, and Montalban is away.

Watching his fingers on the fretboard makes me think of the legs of little crabs on a beach in a sped-up video. It’s not frantic fretting just for the sake of it. It fits the song, which finishes with a big cheer.

“How you feeling,” Miguel Montalban asks. I laugh. I’m captivated.

Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures - The Half Moon, Putney - 4 April 2024
Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures – The Half Moon, Putney – 4 April 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

Go Of The Rails follows. Pint and Montalban are back to back, forming the riff. We get vocals. This song makes me think of Faster Pussycat in 1987. Miguel and company are much heavier and more dirty. The words and style of Go Off The Rails should have Taime Downe in a fit of despair. This is how you do it.

Go Off The Rails is epic, though. A slower blues intro, shredding for the main part, a great chorus outro with a solo finish that is a tight-arsed one.

Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures - The Half Moon, Putney - 4 April 2024
Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures – The Half Moon, Putney – 4 April 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

We’re into cover territory with Tobacco Road. I was expecting a Steve Vai intro, but no. Montalban has his Strat out. There is a segment with a David Lee Roth style part, but these guys are not in that area. This is captivating.

Black Sheep is followed by Fragile Hearts, which can only be described as emotional. This song gets a massive cheer.

Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures - The Half Moon, Putney - 4 April 2024
Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures – The Half Moon, Putney – 4 April 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

I loved the passages in The House and the chord structures underneath. Again, it’s an instrumental, but the verses and the whole structure of the song work well. We get a brief bass solo before we go back to arched backs and flying fingers. Again, the song finishes with big cheers.

Let’s Try finds us back with bass octaves and stomping drums. There are some impressive sounds coming from the guitars. We’re sitting in E for ages until the change finds some vocals. It’s difficult to describe; my notes say I’m never picking up a guitar again. The song has a classic finish. It’s amazing, atmospheric and again loved by the crowd.

Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures - The Half Moon, Putney - 4 April 2024
Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures – The Half Moon, Putney – 4 April 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

In the home straight, Miguel Montalban introduces the band. Edoardo Mariotti gets a big cheer. “There is lots of shit going in in the world,” Miguel says. “And where I come from, [Chile], but today is London, and I’m with you.”

Awaken has some simple keys in the background. The other musicians leave the stage. This is Miguel’s solo spot and everyone is watching. The band rejoin, and an impressive riff follows. Its a simple bit of guitar, compared to earlier. We get vocals, then some shredding, some blues, more shredding. The whammy bar gets a kicking. You should find a live version of this song online. It is so full of wonderful layers.

Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures - The Half Moon, Putney - 4 April 2024
Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures – The Half Moon, Putney – 4 April 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

Fell In Love and Baby That’s Alright lead the run to the finish. Yuri Kufa gets a solo, as does Mariotti. The crowd gets a sing-along, too.

The encore of Hey Joe, the second cover of the night, is unique. Montalban does it on a Les Paul. ‘Wow,’ is my only note.

Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures - The Half Moon, Putney - 4 April 2024
Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures – The Half Moon, Putney – 4 April 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

Looking back on Thursday with Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures, I am left with two overriding emotions.

I went to this show unprepared. Some people say it only takes 30 seconds to make an impression. I had mentioned to Ian Sutherland, MetalTalk’s Head Of Event Editorial, that I was covering Miguel. “No idea who that is,” he replied. “A former busker whose version of Sultans Of Swing hit 20 million views,” I replied, having read the first paragraph of Miguel’s bio on his website. “Not feeling drawn to him so far,” Ian replied.

Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures - The Half Moon, Putney - 4 April 2024
Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures – The Half Moon, Putney – 4 April 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

Another busked version of the Dire Straits track was released a month ago to nearly a quarter of a million views.

The point I’m making here is that Sultans does not inspire many MetalHeads. I’m begging Miguel to add a better description to his bio. If you have watched the video or seen him live, then you know that the choice of song is the least significant part of the performance.

Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures - The Half Moon, Putney - 4 April 2024
Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures – The Half Moon, Putney – 4 April 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

The second point is all about atmosphere and enjoyment. Someone mentioned on social media this morning that last night’s Slash show at Wembley was a low-key affair. “There was no electricity in the crowd, and when they sang, it wasn’t with much gusto.”

The fact is that Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures are exceptional musicians. With limited vocal content, it is a challenging thing to present. But they know how to build a set and entertain a crowd.

This band is perfect for a sweaty club experience. The set passed by in a flash, with the band and crowd connected in a way that only an exceptional music experience can achieve.

Check them out. See them live. I’m a convert. It’s my new obsession.

Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures - The Half Moon, Putney - 4 April 2024
Miguel Montalban & The Southern Vultures – The Half Moon, Putney – 4 April 2024. Photo: Ryan Hildrew/MetalTalk

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