MAGNUM/VEGA - Bristol O2 Academy 29th May 2016

Whenever I go to a Magnum gig, there's always a little niggle in the back of my mind, wondering if after all these years they can still pull a decent crowd. As I walk into the venue, however, that niggle is silenced at the sight of a very healthy attendance, and that's before the support act had even started.

The act in question is Britain's latest pretenders to the rock throne, Vega. Flushed with the critical success of their latest album "Who We Are", released mid way through the tour, they've been firing on all cylinders by all accounts, and it's immediately apparent that Bristol will be no different. The album's opening track, 'Explode', is a perfect tune to kick off a live set, and the band look fresher than ever. There's a few sound problems to start off with, but they are soon smoothed out, and as I leave the photo pit I am amazed to hear vocalist Nick Workman sounding better than ever before. Fresh from playing a headline gig in London, the band are visibly hungry and tight as a drum. The music is exceptional, forty minutes of fast paced melodic rock including five from the new album. Many of the songs include at least one part where the audience can join in with a "woah" or two, and join in they most certainly do. As usual, Vega don't put a foot wrong, and fans new and old are thoroughly entertained right through to the closing bars of new song and set closer "Saving Grace". I guess I'm a bit like broken record with my praise for Vega, but as long as they keep making great albums and playing superb shows I guess I'll have to keep praising them.

As ever with a Magnum show, the variety of audience ages belies the fact that older fans have been gleefully passing the baton to their kids. It's been a long ride for the band, over forty years now since their first release, with the three original band members that remain all in their sixties. All the focus, however, is on Bob Catley, as they open with the welcome return of "Soldier Of The Line" from 1982's "Chase The Dragon". It's followed by perennial classic "On A Storytellers Night", and it's rather apparent that any doubts about the band's age are bloody stupid, as they sound amazing, with Catley's vocals coming through strong and clear. As with Vega, they are assisted by a perfect sound mix, allowing each band member to shine, including the ever gorgeous keyboards of Mark Stanway. The set list is balanced well between older material and that released in the current century, with a nine track run of more current material following "Storytellers..." before "Les Morts Dansant" returns is to past glory, and it's still one of the most effecting, emotional songs out there. For those impressed by the latest album "Sacred Blood, 'Divine' Lies", there's plenty to enjoy, with five tracks including the joyful stomp of "Crazy Old Mothers" and the classic Magnum sound of the title track. As usual, Bob Catley waves and grooves centre stage whilst his partner in crime Tony Clarkin hides away at the side of the stage and does his job. Catley's personal favourite (I believe) "Vigilante" closes the set, with "The Spirit" and "Kingdom Of Madness" providing the encore. As dependable as a high end swiss timepiece, Magnum are one of those bands that virtually guarantee a good gig, and tonight is no exception. One thing is certain, you can add Vega to that list as well.

Report and pictures by Alan Holloway, alan [at]