Magnum + Neonfly @ Rock City, Nottingham – Tuesday 29th April 2014

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Review by Andy Boden, photos by Sean Larkin

Correct venue. Check. Correct date. Check. The omens are good! Whilst Rock Sticky isn’t high up on my list of most favouritist venues, it’s a regular stopping off point for bands playing at the lower medium sized venues so suits Magnum down to the (very sticky) ground.

NeonFly
NeonFly

For my sins, I hadn’t come across NeonFly before. My bad. But wow, what a band! Frontman Willy Norton strides to stage centre, looking for all the world like he had stepped straight from a West End Musical, with a velveteen voice that glides effortlessly up and down the scales. Melodically, think Europe, powerful, theatrical and full of drama. I have always had the notion that if a band has a singer who only sings, he has to be exceptional. Willy Norton is exactly that, with the excellent musicians at his shoulder the big time surely beckons for NeonFly.

Magnum. Having been a Magnum fan for a good few years (like, 36) and having seem them graduate from Wolverhampton pubs, to Hammersmith Odeon and on to Wembley in a few short years back in the eighties, I never dreamt that we would still be seeing them treading the boards here in 2014. The first thing that struck me was how well Bob Catley looked. His impish smile has diminished none over the years, as he skips around the stage with the grace of a man a quarter his age. His shaven-headed cohort to his right (that’ll be Tony Clarkin) rarely strays from his place at the mic, watching over his band with an air of authority and gruffness, albeit with a flash of a smile when the hands start a-clapping. The engine room of Al Barrow on bass and the irrepressible Harry James on drums, were again on top form, providing a slightly understated but tight-as-you-like canvas upon which Bob and Tony could weave their magic.

Magnum
Magnum

The setlist was largely¬†composed from their extensive back-catalogue, with the exception of just four from the new album Escape From The Shadow Garden. The generally subdued masses never really got going until ‘All Englands Eyes’ kicked in, well into the set. Bob did plenty of his customary grasping at an elusive wasp throughout, but didn’t really get into his groove until the latter part of the set. Vocally, Bob never stretched his vocal chords so therefore never laboured, and although¬† there were instances where he looked as though he would go for a high one, they rarely materialised; the mic being thrust upon the audience for them to take up the slack.

What is significant about the Magnum output, especially on the last five albums, is that it is all worked to a fairly rigid formula. Any one of the songs could fit snugly into any of the albums without sounding remotely out of place. Whilst this is perfectly fine if you are a fan of the Magnum formula, the odd gem such as ‘Too Many Clowns’ promised much of the new album but soon settled into familiar territory. For me, this one track was the highlight of tonight’s set.

Magnum
Magnum

There’s nothing bad I, or anyone, can say about Magnum. Totally inoffensive, no egos, nothing controversial, just very safe and, to use a well hackneyed term, old school. It will be interesting to see how Magnum progress over the next couple of years. They will most likely see out their career playing to the same thousand fans at the same venues until they decide to call it a day. I for one would like to see them step outside of the comfort zone. One last time.

Set List:
1. Live ’til You Die
2. Black Skies
3. Freedom Day
4. Dance Of the Black Tattoo
5. Blood Red Laughter
6. Unwritten Sacrifice
7. How Far Jerusalem
8. Les Morts Dansant
9. Falling For The Big Plan
10. The Spirit
11. All My Bridges
12. All Englands Eyes
13. Vigilante
14. Kingdom Of Madness

Encore:
15. Too Many Clowns
16. Sacred Hour

See more of Sean’s photos here