Review by Harry Paterson and photos by Sean Larkin
She was blond and, from tit to toe, clad in skin-tight black leather. As if that wasn’t enough she had more curves than the A603. Ordinarily, that would have been sufficient to draw 9 out of out of ten pairs of male eyes in the surrounding vicinity. It was the walk, though, that really commanded attention. Almost moon-walking as she visibly pulled each stiletto-shod foot free of the floor, her aristocratic features arranged in a moue of disgust. Not for nothing is Nottingham’s premier rock venue known among the locals as Rock Sticky. Yeah, that combo of spilled beer, bodily fluids and assorted other unmentionable nastiness never gets any better.
The toilet floors are still roiling rivers of stale piss and the ever-plummeting standards of hygiene are equalled in their descent only by the outside temperature. There was a time, some years back, when the drummer of a well-known US act bragged to me about “banging this chick” in the gents.’ Bollocks, of course. Even the most depraved rock ‘n’ roll animal would baulk at doing anything in that foetid hell-hole. Personally, I wouldn’t bang a nail into the wall in there but, hey; that’s how my momma taught me to rock n’ ‘roll. Cleanliness next to Godliness, right, kids?
In other news the exchange between two balding, middle-aged nostalgia-trippers was a bit of a hoot;
“Oh, Tony Clarkin not in the band anymore?”
“Er, yeah, of course, you twat”
“Well where is he then?” The marginally more hirsute of the two gestured vaguely at the stage.
“Right there, you nob!”
“What, the bald guy?”
“Doh, well, obviously!”
“What happened to the beard and the hat, then?”
More to the point, where had this ‘fan’ been for the last umpteen years, then?
As usual, though, I digress. You want to hear about the show, right? Well, for starters, whatever unpleasant adhesive qualities the venue’s flooring has, they weren’t apparent on the stage in the main room. Nope, the permanently effervescent Bob Catley, diminutive, twinkly and smiley, like some mischievous sprite straight from the pages of something by Tolkien, bounded, cavorted and jigged as if the laws of gravity had been temporarily suspended.
Apparently they brought their own sound-guy and the dude earned his supper, no question, and the band sounded clear, sparkling and transparent, if lacking a certain oomph in the volume department.
‘All My Bridges’ triggered bouncing and infectious grins around the venue and it’s apparent the band’s charm, endearing inclusiveness and very human music has lost little of its magic.
The material was well-chosen and covered a good spread of the band’s 16-album catalogue. For many, the golden period is the mid-to-late 80s and ‘On A Story Teller’s Night’ and ‘Vigilante’ were cherry-picked with ‘All England’s Eyes’ ‘How Far Jerusalem’ ‘Vigilante’ and ‘Les Morts Dansant’ wheeled out to predictable acclaim.
Catley’s distinctive pipes, though, definitely showed the passage of time with ‘Le Mort Dansant’ reduced to little more than a strangled yelp but with close to 1000 punters forming a make-shift choir and picking up the vocal slack, the moving hymn still managed to trigger tingles along the spine. Effective as always.
New nestled snugly with old so ‘The Spirit’ ‘Blood Red Laughter’ ‘Kingdom of Madness’ and the wistful ache of ‘When We Were Younger’ sounded as if they were all from the same album and that, really, is one of Magnum’s secrets. They’ve got a formula that rarely sounds like anything so shabbily contrived as a formula. And, of course, they adhere strictly to the first commandment of melodic, commercial-tinged rock ‘n ‘roll; thou shalt not fuck with the formula. Merging that business-savvy approach to their music with an unashamed and unapologetic sincerity makes for beautiful and uplifting soundscapes. So mote it be.
Yeah, a lovely band whose gloriously ridiculous pomp appeals to the best that human nature, if there is such a thing, has to offer.
One of those gigs that made you glad to be there and, indeed, glad to be alive. And let’s face it, any band that can transcend the utter shitiness of modern life and take a 1000-strong crowd, even for just a couple of hours, to better worlds where anything seems possible, deserves all the thanks we can give them.
You’d need a swinging brick instead of a heart to remain unmoved by the band’s emotive and impassioned anthems and someone, somewhere, needs to expose the murderous IDF scum to Magnum, quick sharp. Maybe, then, the bombarded Palestinians might finally win some hard-earned and long-deserved peace, dignity and fucking justice.
And you can see more shots from the show here: