Review by Woody, photos by Lisa Billingham
It’s always great when you see a support act win a crowd over and Neonfly collected themselves a whole host of new fans tonight. The Magnum crowd made their voices of appreciation heard in between songs and Neonfly managed to get plenty of bodies rockin’ and hands in the air. The general consensus was that these dudes are pretty awesome, and I can’t disagree. Neonfly play energetic power metal but why they win me over is that they may be playing at whiplash inducing speeds at times but they are capable of creating a sweeping melodious landscape above the break neck driven rhythms of their music. A song like ‘A Gift To Remember’ is sheer awesomeness and was definitely my pick of their enjoyable head banging set.
Vocalist Willy Norton is a charismatic and extremely likeable front man and he wins the crowd over with ease and knows all the right things to say and also when not to push his luck when trying to get a crowd involved and excited by the band. Not many support bands can claim to capture an audience and get them singing along with the total ease that Willy did. Obviously talking about it being a pleasure and dream come true to play a legendary venue with its history and the love the locals have for it helped endear himself. He even used the infamous noisy Black Country crowd reputation to get people to sing a little louder which they did!
The band played extremely well even though they were using borrowed gear after some northern numpties had nicked all their gear in Bradford a few nights before. Amongst their highly impressive set was the following ‘Ships With No Sails’, ‘The Enemy’, ‘Better Angels’, a medley consisting of ‘The Revenant’, ‘The Ornament’ and ‘Spitting Blood’, ‘Heart Of The Sun’ and ‘Morning Star’. A kick ass show from a band I’m definitely going to have to be seeing live again!
I’ve never been quiet about my love of local legends Magnum and I never miss a chance to see them live! One of their biggest strengths is that they are such a reliably strong live act and regardless of their age they always bring it – which is exactly why I continue to see them year after year. They just never disappoint and I know I’m going to sound like a broken record here but they were on fire again tonight, they have adopted Wolverhampton as their spiritual home and view the shows here as their hometown gig and it is always one of their strongest and nosiest crowds and I think we must bring out the best in them as they bounce of our energy, not that I would be biased of course, but everyone knows if you want to see Magnum truly rock you need to see them in Wolvo. Although it is advisable you bring your singing voices and dancing shoes or get looked at like you’re a released mental patient by the local Magnum regulars.
There is something grandiose about every aspect of Magnum and their performances produce bombastic and overblown performances of songs which just wash over you and drag you into the atmosphere and magic that is so unique to them. They may not bounce round the stage like horny eighteen year olds with an itch in their pants, but they command the stage like rulers over an empire demanding our attention.
Tony delivers guitar lick after lick perfectly and his modest and humble stage presence only endears a crowd to him and appreciate his song writing genius even more. Bassist Al always performs like someone who is living the dream and I’m sure playing on home soil always brings out the best in him as he and drummer Harry James keep the backbone of the bands performance solid. The majesty of Mark Stanway’s keyboard’s always captivate me and I always relish the moments he gets to shine as he plays like he’s an old school classical pianist all pomp and ceremony befitting of the music he’s creating. And then there’s Bob Catley, well everyone loves Uncle Bob right?! The man can still belt ’em out with the best of them and proves that you can get older and still maintain a killer voice and also one that can go on an extensive tour and perform every night. There’s many a damn sight younger who could learn a thing or two from Bob – I believe the secret is consuming constant cups of Tea. How can I review a Magnum gig and not mention Bob throwing shapes like a teenager in a Spanish Nightclub – for me this is part of the charm and appeal of Magnum. Bob gives us a stage show, he wants to entertain us and give a visual edge to back his vocals up and I always love seeing what new routines he comes up with for the new songs we get!
Magnum do get criticised a lot for not being more adventurous with the selection of songs from their back catalogue tending to stick to the classics we have come to expect every time we see them. I think there are certain songs they have to play, and to drop them would disappoint many and they do occasionally swap one or two oldies in and out on every tour. I think though in order to play more oldies it would mean playing less newer material and Magnum always play a good chunk of newer material and more often than not a strong number of tracks from the album they touring. They don’t want to be a nostalgia act and I think the Magnum regulars respect that and it does mean the set is always different.
It did surprise me though that an oldie didn’t get aired until after seven songs into the set. In the past they have tended to balance a few well placed oldies amongst the newbie’s to keep the atmosphere on a high. And although the atmosphere did seem to go that little bit more electric it wasn’t as dramatic as you might imagine as the hardcore Magnum crowd are very open and accepting of the bands newer material and the atmosphere and reactions to their opening gambit was just as positive as it was later on. It was just that the Magnum crowd were building the atmosphere steadily throughout the evening to an explosive climax come the encore.
Starting with the ideal set opener from their latest album, ‘Live Til You Die’ kicked things off in grand style but for me the real highlight of the newer material in the first half of the set was the wonderful ‘Blood Red Laughter’ which is a real melodic beauty which balanced up the pompous and grandiose songs that surrounded it. ‘How Far Jerusalem’ was probably the first song to take the roof off but followed by the ever popular ‘Les Mort’s Dansant’ saw it go that little bit higher.
The second half of the set saw a couple of well placed newbies amongst the classics and it has to be said it brought out the best in ‘All My Bridges’ and ‘Falling For The Big Plan’ sandwiching them between the likes of ‘The Spirit’ and ‘All England’s Eyes’. The set came to a close with set regulars and it’s time to get bouncy Magnum stalwarts ‘Vigilante’ and ‘Kingdom Of Madness’. It was with a touch of self belief in their new material as early fan favourite from the Escape From The Shadow Garden album ‘Too Many Clowns’ wins the crowd over with its rock n roll swagger before launching into a classic which hasn’t been played for a few years; ‘Sacred Hour’. Another killer performance from one of the best out there, you haven’t seen a live band till you’ve seen Magnum and that’s a FACT!
Magnum has already announced a return to the Black Country on December 5th at The Robin in Bilston – will I be there? Does a bear shit in the woods? I don’t do missing Magnum gigs although I am trying to send telepathic messages to Tony and Bob for them to include ‘Back To Earth’, ‘Sometime Love’ and ‘Midnight’ next time.