Magnum/Reds'cool - The Plug, Sheffield, Sunday 25th November 2018
I sometimes wonder what it is we've done so wrong that Sheffield only get Magnum to play here every 4 years - still, it makes the occasion indeed that more special when Clarkin, Catley and the rest do set foot on steel city floor.
Bringing an impressive support support act along for the ride is something Magnum also routinely specialise in, the last time having been boisterous Brit fivesome Liberty Lies. This evening we are introduced to Russian melodic rockers Reds'cool, who I take an instant fondness to from the off.
The fiery twin-guitar outfit treat us to a 45-minute set shaped in a very Whitesnake meets Tyketto meets Harem Scarem mould, bringing about some mighty applause by three tracks in. Reds'Cool have their work cut out for them with having only acquired a new singer days ago.
Talk of their current frontman being seen using an iPad onstage is something we totally overlook given current circumstances, yet he looks to be enjoying his new job as he jaunts to and fro across the stage in his shiny leather coat. The lead guitarist in particular appears to own his end of the stage as he stands spread legged, in his sunglasses, even though he doesn't appear to wear a smile too often.
Reds'Cool aren't without immediate stand-out favourites on their set - two of the best have to include 'Stranger's Eyes' and 'Bad Story' which have me humming right through the changeover afterward. Dosvidaniya lads, let's have you over on these shores again soon.
The sight of two men in their early seventies strutting out classic hard rock songs for a solid hour and a half, several nights on end, is often the key incitement to scathing ridicule by most current day rock rags.
Noted for their surprises, Birmingham's finest do certainly deliver this evening, kicking into action with 'Wild Swan'. With the 'Wings of Heaven' album having gone untouched for the last two Sheffield visits, this plants smiles on many a person's face today.
Following right behind without stopping for breath is 'Sacred Blood: Divine Lies, from their 2016 belter of same name and some serious clapping at the front. Title tracks scarcely come in twos on a live set so hearing the one from latest stormer 'Lost On The Road To Eternity' is evident that there isn't anything these guys won't try forty years down the line.
One tiny disappointment this time is the non inclusion of Tobias Samett who guested on the incendiary recorded version but Bob Catley covers his parts as ably as can be, while the work of new keyboard maestro Rick Benton shines both at start and end and all between.
Covering more material from 'Sacred Blood...' itself than from the current stormer, 'Crazy Old Mothers' and 'Your Dreams Won't Die' come thick and fast to courteous applause, the former earning a far better reception live then I expected. Of course a fair percentage of the people in attendance are after a good old slice of Storyteller's Night action.
Unlike earlier dates on the tour where 'How Far Jerusalem', 'Les Morts Dansant' and 'All Englands Eyes' were blasted out back to back on the set, this time they have the night's one other newbie, the excellent 'Show Me Your Hands' to separate the flow, most this side of the barrier eagerly obliging the instruction. Bob Catley is busy counting the pairs as he blasts out the chorus with a voice still incredibly booming for a 71 year old and a smile to accompany.
He has always been a fan of intimately- sized venues and this is a very clear testament as to why. '...Eyes', one of my personal all time Magnum faves is itself installed back to back with Vigilante on the programme, making for a major pogo-fest of epic proportions as el Bobbo himself bounces up and down in synchrony, like an excited child on his bed.
The big - and I mean big - surprise of the evening comes with, wait for it... 'Don't Wake The Lion' . This ten-and-a-half-minute-monolith was last heard on the 'Wings Of Heaven 20th anniversary' tour ten and a half years earlier, and under absolutely no circumstances was I to expect it to ever appear on a regular format live set again. It takes a lot to bring a tear to my eyes but Tony and Bob might well have succeeded this evening - the use of White Swan as the opening track must have just been a warning firework for what was to follow.
It is little surprise that 'D.W.T.L.' is the last entry before they toddle offstage for five minutes, to dry down and take a glug of water. When I come back it's for a final double attack incorporating the immortal cornerstones of 'The Spirit' and 'Sacred Hour' which not one single person I can see around me is failing to sing along to.
With thirty six years of non-stop love for these songs behind them, I would be massively surprised if these are not amongst the two tunes that Magnum would select to end their last ever show, one day in the future. Not that I'd wish that day to come anytime too soon obviously - Magnum have proved tonight just why we need them to stick around for a while yet.... and that they are very much indeed up to that.
Tony Clarkin might not be noted for smiling much on stage as he shreds out the timeless compositions that have kept Magnum flying for four decades but its no secret we all know as well as he does how much his music is loved. Dynamic, professional and as ever gentlemanly performances make up every minute of a Magnum show, including the magnificent bow out at the end, with all five members sharing their own applause across the room, new man on drums Lee Morris, in particular making clear how he savours his new employment so far.
Mr. Catley as always wishes all and sundry around him a Merry Christmas - despite the show still landing in November. An unforgettable early present, with extra surprises behind the wrapping, Magnum have very much earned their rest for the festive season. Merry Christmas indeed, lads.
By Dave Attrill