Neither the ice cream nor the US TV favourite, for a generation of discerning British music fans Magnum will always be the kings of melodic, progressive rock. This sensational set only reinforced a reputation founded on 40 years of hard gigging, fine songwriting and an ear for an uplifting tune.
Spot Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin sipping coffee in Starbucks and they’d immediately strike you as the quintessential odd couple but throw them together on any stage, anywhere, anytime and you’re guaranteed a creative tour de force.
The rushonrock team were raving about Magnum throughout 2010 as they slayed the High Voltage crowd from their cramped perch atop the progressive rock stage. And we couldn’t get The Gathering off the office stereo as the years were rolled back day after day after day.
But Magnum weren’t finished. Not by a long chalk. First The Visitation emerged as the band’s best post-reformation album to date and now they’re headlining a UK tour with all the verve and enthusiasm of bands half their age. Golden times indeed.
Sandwiched in between Mike Monroe and Saxon – and with local favourite Paul Rodgers due in town four days later – this might not have been the best night for Magnum to tackle Tyneside’s famously loyal but financially stretched rock community. Even so, faced with a slew of die hards and and a bunch of wide-eyed new converts these consummate professionals did what they do best: delivering a set of melodic rock par excellence.
If the date was ill-judged then there was nothing wrong with Magnum’s timing when it came to the crunch. And the credit for a set tighter than Catley’s vest must go to one of the best rhythm sections in British rock.
Former Thunder tub thumper Harry James and youthful bass man (not hard in this company if we’re honest) Al Barrow produced a clean and occasionally punishing sound which held the whole show together. James was always good but thanks to Magnum he’s become so much better.
Mixing old classics with more recent fare the classy quintet wowed the assembled throng with a wonderful version of Wild Angels. It’s a measure of Magnum’s enduring creativity that they can craft a tune of this quality 25 years after Vigilante announced the band as truly exceptional melodic rock songwriters.
Brand New Morning (is it really seven years since this song was first unleashed?) was brilliant, How Far Jerusalem as cerebral and expansive as ever, allowing Clarkin and Barrow to come to the fore, and The Moonking simply epic.
But on a night of so many delightful twists and superior turns Vigilante, the title track of what may well be Magnum’s career-defining album, was the unmatched highlight. Clarkin has always written a good song but this is still one of the greatest ever. Magnum were magnificent. Enough said.