Much had been made in Belfast on local rock chatter and social media of the 25 odd years it had been since Magnum had last visited the city, but the night had rolled round quickly since they announced the date and a capacity crowd at the Limelight ensured it was a night not quickly forgotten.
It had only been a couple of years since I last caught opening act Vega in Belfast and I was quite curious to see how they matured over that time. While they sill had their signature vocal melodies and Marc Thursten’s catchy guitar hooks their stagecraft had certainly come on leaps and bounds. Even though space was somewhat restricted at the front of the stage, Nick Workman was quite the engaging front man and had some impressive vocal chops to match the swagger. The energetic set included some of their better known songs such as ‘Stereo Messiah’, ‘All or Nothing’ and ‘Wherever We Are’ as well as ‘Every Little Monster’, ‘Saving Grace’ and the new single ‘White Flag’ from the forthcoming album ‘Who We Are’ (out June 1st 2016 on Frontiers Records). Judging by the number of people singing along in the crowd it was clear that this was a popular choice of opening act who could do little more to get the crowd warmed up for the headliner.
After a short turnaround the lights dimmed, the Magnum band members made their way to stage one by one and the intro to ‘Soldier on the Line’ swelled out over the crowd who responded by singing along to every word. In fact they hardly let up the whole night, though crowd exuberance definitely peaked during the older tunes from Magnum’s seminal 1985 album ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’. A good mixture of songs from the classics and newer albums sat seamlessly alongside the songs from the latest release.
Harry James could hardly be seen up behind his drum kit, which sported Rodney Matthews’ superb artwork from ‘Sacred Blood “Devine” Lies’ on the kick drum. Mark Stanway kept him company at the back though, behind a bank of keyboards adding mood and atmosphere, while Bob Catley dressed in double white denim belted out Magnum’s typically emotive lyrics with his faultless voice while pointing a gesturing to members of the audience like a white wizard, casting spells to captivate all and sundry.
Bassist Al Barrow kept things together with his punchy bass and seemed like a man who genuinely loves what he does, both in terms of working with the other members of the band and interaction with the crowd, the smile barely left his face for the whole show. On the opposite side of the stage Tony Clarkin, writer of much of the lyrics and music, kept a watchful eye on proceedings while ripping out riff after riff, but his cool demeanor gave nothing away right until they played ‘Vigilante’ to close the main set. After a brief break he came back out and took a seat to play the opening bars of ‘The Spirit’ with just Bob’s vocal to accompany him, eventually the rest of the band joining in for the latter part of the song this as it finished on a crescendo which lead brilliantly into the instantly recognizable opening riff of ‘Kingdom of Madness’ to end the evening on a real rocking high note.
Both in terms of sound and production Magnum were superb, with every song sounding flawless. As a spectator it was a somewhat nostalgic night, as this was the my first opportunity to see a band who’s albums I have listened to since the late 80’s, and while the new songs sounded great, there is a special place held in reserve for their older songs. The way Magnum have managed to produce album after album over 40 years of strong, rocking vivid songs that can stir the imagination, has always been impressive and I loved every minute of my first Magnum live experience. Here’s to the next time![flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157668991661546″ size=”z” count=”100″]
Soldier On The Line, On A Storyteller’s Night, Freedom Day, Dance Of The Black Tattoo, Crazy Old Mothers, Blood Red Laughter, Your Dreams Won’t Die, How Far Jerusalem, Unwritten Sacrifice, 12 Men Wise and Just, Les Morts Dansant, All England’s Eyes, Princess in Rags (The Cult), Vigilante.
Encore: The Spirit, Kingdom Of Madness.
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