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Magenta + The Kinky Wizards @ The Robin, Bilston – Sunday, 2nd April 2017

Reviewed by Paul Quinton

A welcome return to The Robin for Magenta, an occurrence that doesn’t happen nearly often enough, in my view, the last one having been nearly two years ago. Following the release of a live album late last year, Chaos From The Stage, this tour was in support of their imminent new studio record, We Are Legend, which is now due in late April. Since their last appearance, there’s been a line-up change with drummer Steve Roberts replaced by Giffy Griffiths, last seen in the Robin filling in for Ghost Community just before Christmas.

Giffy had a busy night, as the support tonight was another band in which he plays, The Kinky Wizards, a three piece featuring Griffiths on drums, his brother Miffy on bass and Ryan Elliot on guitar. Their Facebook page describes them as an ‘instrumental rock jazz band’ and on tonight’s evidence, I see no reason to argue. All their numbers are instrumental, which in most circumstances, would need a very understanding audience, and to be fair, that’s what they had in The Robin. It was a set full of fine musicianship, intriguing time signatures and occasionally eccentric song titles, like ‘Chocolate Teapot’ and ‘Stomp Foot Syndrome’, as well as a bass and drum duet in a song from the earliest days of the band, ‘Thunder’, which segue’d into a pretty adept cover of Rush’s YYZ. A brave choice for any band to cover one of the Canadian’s proggiest tracks, and they did alter the arrangement slightly suit their own style, but this went down really well with this crowd. Overall, The Kinky Wizards played an interesting and entertaining set, especially if you like highly technical rock.

Magenta

Magenta

Magenta were introduced by Summer’s End Festival mastermind Stephen Lambe, a man who’s done an awful lot for the Progressive Rock scene in the UK, who was celebrating his birthday on the day of the gig. The band opened with an extract from ‘Trojan’, one of the tracks from the new album, which sounded really good, and moved straight into what for me is one of their very best songs, ‘Speechless’. I’ve always thought that the band are often at their best in the shorter, more concise songs, and this was no exception.

The addition of Giffy Griffiths also seemed to give the band a fresh impetus. While technically excellent, he’s also quite an animated character, and doesn’t hold anything back in his playing. There was a somewhat dramatic conclusion to ‘Gluttony’ when part of his kit began to topple over, putting bassist Dan Nelson in danger of decapitation by cymbal, and only a piece of quick thinking by Christina Booth averted the disaster. Otherwise, Ms Booth was on sparkling form, with her usual gentle ribbing of her bandmates, appearing surprisingly pleased when the crowd joined in on choruses or the handclapping sections, and overall, singing as well if not better than ever. It’s easy to see why she’s usually a pretty good bet to come high in the voting for the Classic Rock Society’s Female Vocalist of the Year Award. There was also a lovely moment when she invited the crowd to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Stephen Lambe, and included a brief Marilyn Monroe impression as she led the singing.

Magenta - We Are Legend

Magenta – We Are Legend

The set, as well as featuring the new material, drew heavily on the ‘Seven’ album, as well as the previous studio album, ‘The 27 Club’. Two of the highlights were both from the latter album, with Chris Fry playing some superb guitar on ‘Pearl’, proving can play blues when he wants to, and the acoustic opening to ‘Devil at The Crossroads, with he and Christina sat on the drum riser, before the whole band comes in the song assumes epic status. Of the newest material, it seemed these were mostly not the full versions, but it certainly sounds like the album will be a bit special. Fry again excelled on ‘Colours’, where it seems the band were exploring some new ground in rhythm and atmosphere, whereas ‘Legend’ was a fine example of the band’s overall sound, and worked really well in this setting. ‘Demons’ and an edited version of ‘Metamorphosis finished the main set on a very high note, before a lengthy encore of ‘The Lizard King’ and ‘Pride’ brought a really fine gig to a close.

Two things struck me about this gig. Firstly, the number of times I noted that the band were playing an extract or an edited version of a longer song. Whatever the reasoning behind this decision was, I have to say it worked really well, giving the set more impetus, and, even in the slower, more atmospheric sections, rarely allowing the momentum to drop. Repeating my earlier thoughts about the band often being at their best on shorter, more direct songs, putting the set together in this way suited them perfectly. Secondly, I really do wish the band played live more often, as when they’re in this kind of form, it’s a pleasure to see them at work.

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  1. Jim White says:

    A fine review of a gig I was going to attend (in Southampton) but had to cancel because of piddlingly trivial medical reasons … it merely makes me more jealous that I wasn’t there! Also, I thought the Kinky Wizard “eccentric song titles” are excellent but have a long way to go before they match those of Budgie … **coff**