@Newcastle O2 Academy, May 22 2016
Even when they burst onto the scene as the resident band at Birmingham’s The Rum Runner, Magnum gave the impression that they were a band old before their time. Now they’re genuinely old. But this is still, unequivocally, their time.
What sustains pensioners Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin – the heart and soul of this melodic tour de force – is an ability to craft a range of relevant new material even as they near their 70s. Having experienced rock’s predictably cyclical highs and lows, their enduring enthusiasm is truly remarkable.
Rather than rest on their laurels and rehash a bulging back catalogue, both men remain as committed as ever to creative evolution. And it was telling that a career-spanning 17-song set included five songs from 2016’s Top 40 UK album Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies – their highest charting record for 24 years and a treasure trove of musical majesty.
On the face of it, of course, there’s an awkward juxtaposition between 68-year-old Catley, his tight, white denim jeans and Magnum’s energetic brand of melodic rock. It doesn’t always look right but it inevitably sounds incredible. Magnum never cared much about style over substance anyway and this measured set laughed in the face of advancing years and thinning manes.
If Catley and Clarkin guarantee a level of consistency and quality every night then it’s Mark Stanway who repeatedly steals the show. His silver locks flowing, the talented tinkler epitomises the term ‘keyboard wizard’: once again Magnum’s very own Gandalf cast a spell over the masses with dreamy intros to bona fide classics Vigilante, Les Morts Dansant and How Far Jerusalem.
Of the new material Crazy Old Mothers didn’t quite work despite Catley’s best efforts and the title track suffered from an early mix best described as muddy. But by the time the inspirational Your Dreams Won’t Die raised the bar Magnum were in full swing, a pin-sharp sound complementing genuine urgency. Twelve Men Wise And Just and Princess In Rags (The Cult) more than justified their place at the business end of a stellar show. And Catley’s assured performance proved age is just a number
Support Vega aren’t exactly the new kids on the rock block but four albums in and it seems the Nick Workman-fronted Brits are finally hitting their stride. Latest long player Who We Are landed at 21 in the UK rock charts earlier this month and the band’s over-produced party metal has never sounded better.
Touring with two guitarists ensures Vega’s Leppard-style pop rock realises its full potential – Stereo Messiah, White Flag and Every Little Monster benefitting from a robust sound that turns heads and shifts a few T-shirts. If Magnum were a band old before their time then Vega are a band out of time – Workman and co. would have been massive during the late 80s but even in 2016 their polished anthems demand a higher profile.