Review by Woody, Pics by Rob Stanley
Picking up from various posts and comments on social media sites, the word was that ticket sales for tonight were not as good as hoped what with the summer holidays and festival season in full swing. Well the lesson here is ‘Never believe everything you read on the internet’, because the Robin was packed to capacity!
Local guitarist Simon Lees was tonight’s support with his one man rock show. I had heard very good things and was looking forward to his set with anticipation, but I have to say I was a little confused by that adoration. While it’s obvious Lees is a guitar wiz, I found his songs a little one dimensional and unimpressive. I know he does a lot of one-man shows which consist heavily of cover songs, he wisely stuck to his original music tonight. Whilst he is a battle hardened live musician his songs just had no soul. I’ve never been a fan of guitar widdlers like Vai and Satriani so the fact that he played a lot of instrumentals tonight didn’t really warm me to his set. I know he is well loved and a popular attraction on the pub circuit at the moment but tonight he just didn’t show me why.
The reason for Magnum’s appearance at The Robin tonight was as a warm up for a few festival dates this summer. So I duly believed tonight’s set would be a bunch of greatest hits but that’s not what we got. These guys are adamant that they will never become a nostalgia act, and continue to play material spanning their entire career. The set reflected that tonight, but it took a few songs for the band to really kick it into gear and show us the real Magnum. I found ‘All The Dreamers’ from their latest album On The 13th Day, a bit of an odd choice to open with, and it really had no impact and started the show off slowly. Second song, the popular ‘When We Were Younger’, saw the band going through the motions before it all really kicked off with the awesome ‘Blood Red Laughter’. From here on in it was the full-on Magnum experience that we have all come to love and why we repeatedly attend the shows!
Bob Catley was a little quieter than usual but he engaged the crowd and worked the stage as only he can, with his hands frequently showing us new never-seen-before shapes! Tony Clarkin was particularly strong tonight, the excellent sound at the Robin provided the perfect environment for him to show off his wonderful guitar riffs. He is an understated performer but there is absolutely nothing understated about his fretwork as he flawlessly delivered. Bassist Al Barrow always adds a bit of colour to a Magnum performance as he’s a very mobile player who rocks out to every note and always engages with the crowd with a smile never far from his face. It was great to see keyboardist Mark Stanway on a platform riser so he wasn’t tucked away in the darkness and quite rightly got to show off his skills on many occasion. I’ve always loved his pomp fuelled keyboards! I know many fans bemoan the Magnum set list for being too familiar, wishing they would spice up their sets more. I’ve never felt that, and I’ve always found the song choice quite varied and usually very supportive of the latest album. Tonight was no different and amongst the eclectic set is ‘Brand New Morning’, ‘How Far Jerusalem’, ‘All My Bridges’, ‘Les Morts Dansant’ and a rare performance of ‘The Flood’ from the Sleepwalking album.
Magnum have such a huge collection of songs it’s always going to be hard to revisit many of them live but I think the band do try and keep every tour’s set list fresh while still keeping the gig regulars happy! Bob dedicates ‘The Spirit’ to Ray Trapnell, a well known fan of the band who recently passed away. He was known as ‘The Torso’ because Ray always stood out, bare-chested in the middle of the crowd, bouncing high and singing loud. If you’ve ever been to a Magnum gig you will have seen him. I even referred to him as ‘Naked Sweaty Man’ in a previous review to which I received an email from Ray telling me he was that ‘Naked Sweaty Man’. R.I.P Ray.
You just can’t go to a Magnum show and not have a fantastic night. They’re great performers with a rich history of songs which light up any live stage but the one thing that sets their gigs above others is the fans that embrace the band like gods and create amazing atmospheres, as they dance and sing along. From young teenagers to heavy metal granddads, every Magnum fan is enthralled and happily raising the roof to every note and song. The atmosphere built and intensified as we approached the close of the set with the whole venue erupting along to ‘All England’s Eyes’, dance-a-thon ‘Vigilante’, ‘Kingdom of Madness’, ‘Rockin’ Chair’ and ‘Days Of No Trust’.
It was yet another awesome show from one of the Midlands finest bands with still more to come next year. The new album Escape From The Shadow Garden is due early next year with a full UK tour to support it and inevitably a show in Wolvo, so 2014 is shaping up to be Magnum-tastic!
See more of Rob’s photos here;