Growing up in the eighties as a young rock fan in a war-torn country it was quite unusual to have any bands coming to Northern Ireland to tour. However, Magnum were one of the few bands to regularly play in my country coming over to entertain us frequently.
Since moving to England in 2015 although Magnum are still touring and regularly playing Manchester our paths have not yet crossed here on the mainland. Finally, the stars aligned -well more honestly my work schedule and I was finally able to get to see them play live once again. The band line-up had changed quite a lot since my last viewing but stalwart singer Bob Catley and guitarist Tony Clarkin still remained. I understand that they have continued to release studio albums since I last saw them but wondered how their live show would reflect their now extensive musical legacy.
Due to global events, the gig had to be rescheduled when all bands touring had abruptly been halted so it was a much-awaited and eagerly anticipated return to the live stage in Manchester. Prior to the show, I had managed to discover my classic Storytellers Night t-shirt which I wore to attend-I didn’t actually stand out as I spotted a plethora of tour shirts even some that predated my own.
Glossing quickly over the support act which I felt was totally out of touch musically with the style of the headliners I moved quickly on to the main act of the evening. A much smaller stage line-up from when I last saw them what was quickly apparent however was the passion and warmth of the embracing Manchester audience. Opening with Wings of Heaven album single “Days of No Trust,” the band quickly met a noisy and enthusiastic chorus of excited audience members.
Aging, I have recently found is a strange process. Already at a youthful 55 years, I am finding slight failings in the memory process day by day. During the opening song, however, I find myself transported back in time as lyrically I actually manage to recall an entire song lyric-exactly word for word. This was not a unique thing, and it would be regularly repeated throughout the duration of the band’s set as Magnum certainly proved to be an essential elixir of youth. The majority of the audience were in a similar age bracket and their smiles and joyful singing quickly proved that I was not alone in reliving particular songs and experiences of youth. Sonically it also seemed to enforce the memory rejuvenation process as my fellow concertgoers echoed the songs straight back to the band. While the years may have advanced for all of us what was very evident was that vocally singer Bob Catley was totally on point with sounding exactly how I remembered. His stage mannerisms were probably slightly enhanced but that was always a quintessential part of his charm.
From a refreshingly familiar tune, the band then took a giant leap forward in time by playing some more recent material. While I honestly own up to being unfamiliar with the band’s musical offerings from recent years, it was actually easy to assess the new (to me) songs on a first airing. There’s certainly been no reduction in songwriting quality as Magnum continued to wheel out one epic tune after another. Unfamiliarity with the material did not necessarily mean that it can’t be good and enjoyable to listen to. Melodic hooks abound and catchy choruses are quickly picked up easily even by new listeners like me.” “Lost on the Road to Eternity,” “The Monster Roars,” – some recent album title tracks nestle comfortably alongside lesser-known early album tracks like “The Flood” and “Wild Swan.”
My favourite Magnum album “On a storytellers Night” is well represented by the title track along with “Les Morts Dansant” which clearly invoked quite personal memories from a fan beside me who was visibly shedding some tears during its performance. “Rockin Chair” represented the bands more commercial later period before ye old Magnum classics “Kingdom of Madness” and “Sacred Hour” brought the evening’s musical proceedings to an end.
Many years may have passed and indeed many Magnum shows have I personally witnessed, there’s still no doubting the band’s enduring appeal and ability to deliver a quite brilliant musical show as their setlist traverses their musical legacy. Magnum serves up a musical elixir of life.