Having been a fan of Magnum since 1986 or thereabouts, it was about time to see the band in a concert setting. Their "Visitation Tour" and our "winter holiday tour" crossed paths in Munich, Germany, where the band played in a club called Ampere. The club is a part of a larger venue called Muffatwerk, with a capacity of 500. The turnout and the athmosphere of the gig was very good, with most of the people being really familiar with the band's material.
The support act was an Australian (but Welsh-born) blues rocker GWYN ASHTON and his "TWO-MAN BLUES ARMY". Blues Rock isn't my cup of tea at all, but the Two-Man Blues Army won the battle, if not the war. Gwyn himself is a very impressive guitarist and his rough blues voice suits his material, and the other "man of the army", young drummer "Killer" Kev Hickman played with a lot of energy. Despite there being a only a duo on stage, the sound of the "band" was full enough, thanks to Gwyn's versatile guitar work.
Mr. Ashton had brought a rather large collection of guitars with him, and changed his instrument for almost every song. He also had some gadgets with him, allowing him to loop some riffs and accompany himself. Not to mention the usual guitar effects and whatever fuzzboxes... all I know that he created quite a wall of sound.
I can't say much about the songs of his, since they really didn't offer me much to sink my teeth into - more or less basic blues/rock tracks. They got my toe tappin' and kept me entertained for the duration of his show, but that's about it. Fans of the blues genre would most probably disagree with me, and indeed I could recommend checking out his material if you dig the blues...
While Ashton got a nice round of applauds after each song and made a few new fans for himself, it was MAGNUM we had come to see. I was hoping for a set with many of the band's classic songs, since their albums after the reformation hadn't done much for me. In fact, I had only purchased the latest one ("The Visitation") the previous day, and had listened to it once, so I wasn't really familiar with their recent material. Unfortunately, a very "post-reformation"-dominated setlist was what we got... I do understand the band's desire to play the fresh material and promote the new album, but still I felt the set was a bit of a disappointment.
The band kicked off with a spirited version of "Back To Earth", a song I wasn't familiar with but instantly liked. I now have learned that I do own the song, it's a 1982 single track and featured on the "Chase The Dragon" expanded edition which sits happily in my CD collection. Doh...
The band's frontman Bob Catley is still the very "visual" frontman I remember from the old concert videos, with hands waving away as if he's trying to interpret the songs in sign language too. The "new" bassist Al Barrow was another lively character on stage, but that same can't be said of the other members. Okay, drummer Harry James was hidden behind his kit and I didn't really see how lively his playing was or wasn't, but both guitarist Tony Clarkin and especially keyboard player Mark Stanway didn't seem like they were enjoying themselves too much. Not a lot of smiles or any sort of contact with the audience. Both played well, no doubt about it, and Tony seemed to warm up a little as the show got closer to its' final notes, but I had the feeling that they were there to do their job, nothing else. The fact that Stanway walked off stage right away after the last song, while the others stayed on stage to thank the audience only confirmed my feeling. I don't know, maybe he had some health issues or something...
The first 12 songs of the setlist were mostly newer tracks, with no less than five from new album. As good as they were, each time they started one of them I was thinking "okay... but let's have "Just Like An Arrow" or "Days Of No Trust" next!". That didn't happen. I guess most of the others were thinking along the same lines, because when the familiar first chords of "How Far Jerusalem" were played, the cheer from the crowd was LOUD. And goddamn it, we sang the chorus very loudly too. Then it was back to the new stuff again, and admittedly songs like "Spin Like A Wheel" and "Freedom Day" got a good reception, but not as good as the old classics. "Les Morts Dansant" was next of them, and again it became a big singalong number.
The finest moment for me was the utterly fantastic "Vigilante", one of the band's finest songs of all time. It was a big crowd favourite too, as were the other two classic songs played as the last songs of the main set. The encores were "Wild Swan" (only one from the band's biggest selling album "Wings Of Heaven") and the epic "On A Storyteller's Night".
So, in conclusion... 17 songs, out of which 10 were new material. That's a brave setlist for a band with such a long history, but not necessarily the setlist me or the other fans were hoping for.
Back to Earth
Review by Kimmo Toivonen
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