Review By Woody, photos by Rob Stanley
When local rockers Liberty Lies first emerged on the local scene I was intrigued by their classic rock influenced sound and they showed a lot of promise to improve and develop. As time passed the development of the band lost me on the way, their song writing was taking them in a different direction and into a more modern sound that wasn’t really for me. So I haven’t really kept up with them in recent times and on the rare occasions I have seen them supporting someone else I haven’t been blown away. Midlands Rocks has always been supportive of Liberty Lies with many other writers enjoying the band grow and become the ever busy outfit they are today – that said they have received some rough reviews from the team this year so I was unsure what to expect.
Tonight was definitely the strongest and most impressive I have ever seen them; they have grown into a solid and confident live unit and songs I have heard before came across far more intriguingly this time. They sounded far slicker tonight and I was able to fully appreciate power house vocalist Shaun Richards’s powerful vocal energy. I was always a fan of the extremely talented guitarist Josh Pritchett; he’s a fascinating guitarist to watch. I was really drawn into the energy of the songs and appreciated those guitar licks which hooked me into their performance. They managed to squeeze in quite a few songs in and amongst them were, ‘The Wire’, ‘Circles’, ‘Confessions of a Effigy’, ‘Crow Road’, ‘Undivided’ and ‘Someone Else’. They dedicated a song to fellow Midlands Rocks photographer Sam Knight, who has been a consistent supporter of them from virtually day one and most promo shots you see of the band were more than likely taken by Sam – I thought it was a really nice gesture for them acknowledge her support publicly like this.
This great performance from Liberty Lies has really inspired me to spend some time rediscovering their music. Reflecting back on my first time seeing Liberty Lies it’s nice to see how they have grown as a live act and they are now a road hardened crew. These Black Country boys have a new EP out in January – it may just be worth checking out!
I’d already seen Magnum earlier this year at the Wulfrun, but I don’t like missing local shows and there is always something special about seeing them in the more intimate surroundings of the Robin so it was a no brainer I was heading out for this one. It was of course a sell out, which is always good to see so the Robin was packed to capacity with breathing room only and as always it shocks me the vast range of ages of Magnum fans. It’s great to see an act I love still winning new fans to their music. Magnum crowds are always rowdy and create jovial and enjoyable atmospheres. When you talk about die-hard fans of any band watching people sing their lungs out and bounce around tonight it makes me think Magnum maybe have the die-hardest of fans!
This was part two of their UK leg of the Escape From The Shadow Garden tour and if memory serves me right bar one song the set list and running order was the same as part one. This tour has seen them perform a hell of a lot of newer material and rather than interlacing it with older material as they have done in the past it is a set of two halves starting with newer stuff and building to an inevitable crescendo of the second half of classics. The newer material holds its own well with the audience; your average hardcore Magnum fan sings along with gusto to new and old material alike. For me, Tony Clarkin’s songs have always had an extra edge live and the fans embrace that energy when the band performs.
I think Magnum as a whole sounded even better tonight, smooth, melodic and near faultless performances. I really don’t know how they manage to perform so may shows throughout the UK and Europe and manage to stay at the top of their game given the ages of most of the band – musicians twenty years these guys junior struggle with a touring schedule of this intensity. Last time at the Robin I thought Bob was a little rough, but in uncle Bob terms a little rough stills equals freakin’ awesome! Tonight he was as strong as ever and this tour hasn’t diminished his voice or his stage performance, I love how Bob has specific moves for certain songs and I always find a smirk creeping across my face when I hear a new Magnum song and witness Bob’s new shape throwing routine to accompany it. You always get what you come for with Magnum; huge pompous melodic rock delivered with aplomb that always sends fans home spent and satisfied.
Of the newer songs I probably enjoyed the excessively melodic bliss of ‘Blood Red Laughter’ most, but I enjoyed a lot of the newer stuff as much as the classics; opening cut ‘Live Til I Die’ is a great choice to start getting the crowds blood pumping and ready for action. We also got ‘Black Skies’, ‘Freedom Day’, ‘Dance Of The Black Tattoo’, ‘Unwritten Sacrifice’ and ‘Falling For The Big Plan’. From the moment ‘How Far Jerusalem’ kicks in, this already rowdy bunch knock it up a notch, before going all atmospheric on fan favourites ‘Les Morts Dansant’ and ‘The Spirit’ and then revving it all back up for a trio of bouncing castle time songs in the form of ‘All England’s Eyes’, ‘Vigilante’ and ‘Kingdom Of Madness’.
The one difference in the set this evening is the inclusion in the encore of their new chrimbo single ‘On Christmas Day’. Which I hadn’t heard before mainly because I’m a firm believer in ‘bah humbug’ and Christmas music depresses the living shite out of me – yes I know this is coming from someone who is Black Country to the bone and we gave the world Slade and Wizzards chart topping chrimbo classics that will still be played a hundred years from now – but chrimbo nahh…. This new single though is typical old school epic Magnum, starting out quite low key and whimsical and not exactly injecting the chrimbo spirit into to me but the song evolves into an infectious juicy ultra melodic rocker harking back to the bands chart bothering heyday and really got the crowd going! They finish with ‘Sacred Hour’; a classic that never fails to inspire a rambunctious reaction from the Magnum fellowship.
Magnum never disappoints and remains one of the strongest live acts out there. I suppose with the massive body of work they have you always wish for certain songs to be played or re-introduced to the set, but when you’re at a Magnum show these thoughts don’t occur to you and that’s a great testament to the amount of quality songs they have and Tony Clarkin is still creating more! I’m not sure what next year holds for the band, but I’ll be patiently waiting for their next tour announcement!