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Monday, 16 May 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Magnum

Magnum & Vega, Tramshed, Cardiff

Let me set the scene I haven't seen melodic rockers Magnum live since they played what was or indeed what seemed like a labyrinthine set at Steelhouse. At a festival it's usually de-rigueur to play a greatest hits set but I'll be honest and say I didn't really recognise anything they played, so I thought I'd give them another shot seeing as they were playing The Tramshed which is probably the best venue in Cardiff at the moment.

Coming into the venue early I had a swift pint in the onsite bar before we were let into the venue about an hour before the show started, I swiftly exited the venue and enjoyed another pint in the dying sunlight before once again returning just before support band Vega took to the stage, having seen Vega before, I'll admit I still wasn't impressed by the six piece who pretty much sound like a Def Leppard tribute act, they seem to have a following but I found their live set a bit tame and the songs far too saccharine to have any real bite, they can all play yes but the major let down are the vocals and posturing of frontman Nick Workman, his voice is not good, straining to hit the notes at points meaning that they grate after a few songs. The songs too all blended into one and other meaning that after half way through gave up and headed back to the bar. 4/10

The change was thankfully fast and the venue filled for Magnum, although not full there were enough hardcore fans at the front to give the room an atmosphere. Then bang on time they took to the stage, keyboardist Mark Stanway played the opening chords to Soldier Of The Line, Harry James started tickling the cymbals, as Al Barrow's bass and Tony Clarkin's famous guitar sound pumper out the riff, then just before the first verse Bob Catley strode on to the middle of the stage, in a double white denim number and opened his mouth. Unfortunately this is where is started to fall apart, Catley's once fine vocal was nothing more than a croak, the magic was wearing thin as Soldier... ended and A Storyteller's Night began but by the end of that song for me it was turning into a bit of a slog. Magnum are not the most visual band either so unfortunately there was nothing to distract you from the vocals. I think Bob moved the lower half of his body after about 8 songs, Clarkin was stationary throughout so it was up to Barrow as the youngest member to inject some visual distraction with his boundless enthusiasm.

With a mix of new stuff and older classics Magnum had a set list that got the faithful jumping throughout but for me the band had more than an element of Spinal Tap about them from the stage moves especially Catley's illicit shapes, coupled with Denim whiter than JBJ's teeth (see Paul's Jovi review), the most Tap of all was Mark Stanway's one man battle with the wind machine which became the best thing to watch on stage, in my eyes (and indeed some of my colleagues) the set was descending into farce. As they went into How Far Jerusalem after a few newer numbers form the most recent record, I noticed that the new songs didn't really stand out as well blending into what was becoming a dulcet malaise of a set. The band wrapped the set up with Les Morts Dansart, All England's Eyes and the final 80's-tastic Vigilante, the latter two tracks getting the crowd moving and sounding at least a bit better but for me it was enough, I took my leave before the encore of The Spirit and Kingdom Of Madness as really I was very disappointed. Magnum are a band very dear to me but they have lost it, maybe Bob Catley's long tour with Avantasia and the preceding 17 dates of this tour caused the problems, leaving his voice was rough as a badgers' bits, or it might just be more tellingly that these old dogs have had their day, personally I'll be sticking to listening them on record. 5/10        

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