As usual, going to a Magnum gig makes me feel old, but also as usual it makes me apprehensive, excited and happy, so that’s a pretty good trade off from where I’m standing. Since the gave themselves a new breath of life in 2002, I have been enjoying the resurgence of one of Britain’s best loves classic rock bands, and judging by the pseople in the venue (not to mention other sold out shows on the tour) I’m not in a minority. Okay, so I wasn’t too keen on the new album, “Into the Valley Of The Moonking”, but Magnum live are always entertaining whatever they play.
Midlands based support band Awake are accompanying Magnum for the second time, throwing metal that is far too heavy for a classic rock/prog audience, and coupled with pretty bad sound to boot. We last three songs before we leave the main stage area and hide until they’ve gone away, so anyone hoping for a review of them is going to have to look elsewhere. There are a myriad of Magnum shirts everywhere, and we play “spot the cover” whilst we wait. When Magnum come on it’s almost like the return of an old friend, and it’s no surprise when they lead off with “Cry To Yourself”, the opening track from the new album. It’s followed with another new track, “the upbeat “Take Me To The Edge”, and whilst the audience doesn’t go mental they seem happy enough. “Brand New Morning” from the 2004 album of the same name follows, with another new track “The Moonking” trotting along after. It’s during this one that they make some use of the shiny new projection screen they’ve brought with them, showing a big picture of a moon on it, which is nice. Otherwise, the screen seems to mainly be used to project pretty revolving patterns on (many of which are very trippy!), but hell, it’s better than a blank wall, so kudos for a little creativity these days.
At this point I’m starting to wonder if we’re going to get any tracks released before 2004, and I’m kept wondering as the band deliver another two from the new album, as well as another from “Brand New Morning” as well as “Dragons Are Real” from 2007’s “Princess Alice & The Broken Arrow”. It’s nearly an hour into the set before perennial favourite “Les Morts Dansant” is pulled out of the bag, and there seems to be an immediate peak in the level of audience appreciation as everyone sings along with Bob Catley. Bob has been in pretty good form so far, although he did sound a little tired for the first few songs, but as always he puts real emotion into a song that speaks to everyone who hears it. Elsewhere, guitarist Tony Clarkin does his usual routine, hiding away at the side of the stage and utilising the same range of expressions as an Easter Island statue, forgiven because he never drops a note, and also because he writes all these great songs. Luckily, we have keyboard player Mark Stanway at the back of the stage to provide musical gurning, but it’s shame he doesn’t get to play the always mesmerizing intro to “Sacred Hour”. Bassist Al Barrow is also always a treat to watch, although instead of interesting expressions he just looks amazingly happy all the time, a nice side effect of being ain a great band, I suppose. Last but by no means least is drummer Harry James, a man who would wear sunglasses in a blackout, who really fits in well with the band, although he seems to fit in well with everyone he plays for.
Back with the music (which is why we’re here after all), the last new track “All My Bridges” comes out, and at least it’s a nice upbeat one that raises the mood a bit after “Les Morts Dansant” has ended with a cross of poppies on the screen. The set is rounded off nicely with the twin salvo of classics “All England’s Eyes” and “Vigilante”, the latter always a favourite of Catley. Naturally there’s an encore, and it’s another double barrelled blast of classics with “Don’t Wake The Lion” and “Kingdom Of Madness”.
It’s been an odd night, with post 2004 songs outnumbering the classics by two to one. I understand that it’s good to play new songs, and also that Magnum have toured to celebrate the anniversaries of both “On A Storyteller’s Night” and “Wings Of Heaven”, but surely there’s still scope to play some cool old songs like “Back To Earth”, “Edge Of The World”, “Soldier Of The Line”, “The Spirit” and the like. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t been able to get into the new album (whilst plenty of others have), but I would have preferred less of the new and more of the old, even if it’s just because I am old. Nonetheless, Magnum put on a good show, and it’s good to see Bob waving away like an air traffic controller who’s lost his paddles, still belting out the goods after all this time. Cheers, mate, and I’ll see you next time.
Review by Alan Holloway, alan "at" rockunited.com