Reviewed by Paul Quinton
Since his seemingly untimely departure from Magnum, keyboard Mark Stanway has put his own band together, playing his own set of Magnum songs. For what is the band’s hometown show at the Newhampton Arts Centre on a wet Saturday night, they drew a really healthy crowd, that was in pretty good voice even before the show started.
Support for tonight’s show came from local rock covers band MOOSE JAW. Initially, I was going to remark that it was a pity that one of any number of up and coming bands playing their own stuff couldn’t have been offered this spot, (lists available on request), but as it turned out, there was a good reason for this choice, for tonight at least. Moose Jaw played a lively set of mostly well-known classic rock songs from the likes of Van Halen, Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult (not ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’, by the way), and Muse, as well as a couple of probably lesser known songs, including set opener ‘Do You Want Me To Stop’ by the late Bernie Torme. It was all good, enjoyable stuff, and pretty well played as well.
The line-up of Kingdom of Madness for tonight’s show, apart from Mark Stanway on keyboards, includes former Magnum members Mickey Barker on drums and Richard Bailey on keyboards and flute, plus Chris Ousey (Heartland, Snakecharmer) and Mo Birch (Go West, UB40) on vocals, Brian Badhams (Elkie Brooks, Bernie Marsden Band) on bass and, apparently recruited on very short notice, Alan Bell from Moose Jaw on guitar.
One of the principles behind Mark Stanway forming KINGDOM OF MADNESS was to be able to play some of Magnum’s early material, which, as time goes on, seems to be less and less likely to be played by the original band. In recent year’s Magnum’s set lists seem to have been pretty rigidly structured, some off the newest album, a couple of others released since they reformed in 2002, plus a fairly unvarying choice of ‘classic’ songs. For some of us who’ve followed the band from the early years, the chance to hear some of these deeper cuts is very welcome, and tonight’s opening salvo of ‘Changes’ and ‘Back to Earth’ was just what the proverbial doctor ordered, ‘Back To Earth’ and ‘Wild Swan’ in particular sounding really good in this setting, These were followed by an even deeper cut, ‘Love’s A Stranger’ from the ‘Rock Art’ album, which again sounded excellent.
Mo Birch took over from Chris Ousey on lead vocals for ‘The Lights Burned Out’, adding a nice line in Bob Catley-like arm movements, and she also took the lead for ‘Les Morts Dansant’, where Richard Bailey added a flute part, and for ‘On A Storytellers Night. At first it did seem a little strange to hear voices other than Bob Catley’s sing such familiar songs, but both singers did an excellent job, including on the more familiar songs like ‘Just Like An Arrow’ and ‘Rocking Chair’. A mention too for Alan Bell, stepping into some fairly sizeable shoes and holding his own, even managing to put his own stamp on some of the solos. The two encores mixed things up a little as well, starting with ‘The last Dance’, before the band were joined on stage for ‘Sacred Hour’ by local guitarist Rob Hayes, who played a lovely, lyrical solo in the intro.
As well as highlighting some of Magnum’s songs that aren’t performed that often, if at all, by the band themselves, some of the versions played tonight were rearranged in places, such as Richard Bailey adding flute to ‘Les Morts Dansant’ and main set closer ‘Kingdom of Madness’ having the original flute introduction restored. Another rarely played track, ‘Only In America’, was given a very Kansas-like feel, emphasised by the extract from ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ played in the closing stages, leading into Mickey Barker’s drum solo. It was also noticeable that Mark seemed at pains to be only complimentary about his former band, especially about Tony Clarkin’s songwriting, going so far as to introduce ‘Tall Ships’ as one of the best songs he ever wrote.
From a nostalgia point of view, this show worked very well, the song choices were excellent, the band were on fine form, and the crowd responded really well. It will be interesting to see where Mark Stanway decides to take Kingdom of Madness in the future, whether he’ll be content to carry on playing these ‘Classic Magnum’ shows, or if he wants to take it in some different directions. Until then, for anyone who has loved Magnum’s music over the years, this show can be warmly recommended.