Magnum/Theia – The Leadmill, Sheffield, Tuesday 13th September, 2022
Seeing your favourite ever band on your own birthday, in your home city, is something not a vast majority of people on this earth are known to have accomplished. Due to a staggering three re-schedulings,
Magnum's first show in Sheffield for almost 4 years happens to have ultimately coincided with my most significant date on the calendar. (Not all that bad then that covid stuff, eh?) Even more remarkably their support act for the originally intended dates back in spring 2020 have stood by throughout the delay.
Any band opening for Magnum who use 'I like to move it move it' as their love intro tape are at great risk of giving people the impression they have just walked into the wrong gig.
These two (originally three) Burton boys consisting of brother's Kyle Lamley (Vocals/Guitar) and Ash Lamley (Drums/Backing Vocals) shoot up a surprisingly loud storm between stage and audience alike across their 45 minute slot.
A band with an average member age of 28 playing a hybrid sitting in between various melodic-shaped modes of rock, metal and alternative without seams is not unheard of as Magnum support slots go (one remembers Liberty Lies slaying the room some few years ago).
Tracks such as 'Fire', 'The Day', 'There's a Boy' and 'Electric Witness' stuffed to the brim with attitude and bombast achieve the often nigh-on-difficult task of selling a young band to an old crowd.
Three quarters of an hour later, it is clear that that Theia have won a big heart from the crowds here to worship at Catley and Clarkin's altar this last year.
Watching a man who has only just turned 75 take to the stage like someone in his more tender years sets my heart aflutter for more than the fact it's is my favourite band.
Seeing Magnum open with the very song that got me into them to start over 30 years ago requires a pinch on the arm at mildest. Despite the fact that they play a somewhat slightly restructured version of 'Days Of No Trust', the Sheffield crowd absolutely eat it up from the second Bob Catley, Clarkin and the lads come on (Theia unarguably did their work in warming this lot up).
For the whole rest of their hour-and-a-half's floorboard time, Birmingham's finest are here to celebrate the 50th anniversary with one absolute mother of a party. They proceed to play a solid seven-in a-row of their latter-day catalogue, as is often customary in Magnum sets these last ten years. 'Lost on the Road to Eternity' obviously no longer features Tobias Sammet in that classic duet from the album, although Bob Catley does a sparkling job as always covering both parts of the script.
A little bit of a supergroup in recent years, with former Paradise Lost drummer, Lee Morris also now accompanied by former Pink Cream 69 bass legend, Dennis Ward on four-string duties, their sturdy accompaniment alongside current keyboardist, Rick Benton rips through the wall with the more recent material.
Two or tracks each from the most recent couple of albums feature - remembering of course that they were due to on the back of 2020's 'Serpent Rings' opus before Covid had it's own way. The title track from latest mega-work. 'The Monster Roars' may well be the one song that I have struggled to get into overnight although the huge sudden triple set bounce of its second half and Tony Clarkin's creamy soloing on top changes it into a new track.
My two personal favourites from their previous release both feature, 'Where Are You Eden' and 'Archway of Tears' with huge pogo-ing and fist pumping setting in, normally reserved for the classics - the former still featuring that sinisterly Bond-style intro. Sandwiched in between is 'Dance of the Black Tattoo', a track from 2010's 'The Visitation', probably their heaviest work ever to date and dangerously haunting in a live setting. The near-solid run of recent material is actually interrupted by the number one surprise of the night.
'The Flood', possibly included to coincide with 'Sleepwalking' turning 30 this year, was one of my least favourite tracks of mine back in the day and for quite a few years after but it gets one hell of a rebirth here with Bob pulling the chorus notes off in a much more palatable manner and massive blues work from Tony for the closing minute or two of the number.
Rounding up the newbies is 'The Day After The Night Before' - one of the very best from 'TMR' and pretty like and is pretty likened to a few on its predecessor. As protocol for Magnum sets nowadays it's oldies all the way for the rest of the evening. 'Wild Swan', seemingly reinstated as a live show mainstay not so much sails or soars but waves and slays into the night on the 'Wings of Heaven' with it's haunting closing half still proving hard as ever not to get dewey-eyed over.
'The Storyteller's Night' material finally arrives three quarters into their set, starting with 'Les Morts Dansant'. Jumping then forward again a few more years and one of my personal ever favourites 'Rocking Chair'. Rick dominates this belter with his performance, sticking in some peppery piano fills as Bob romps across the stage and back, shooting out the gesticulations. A smile can just be seen from Mr. Clarkin himself as he bends out those solo notes.
Sticking both of the two most pogo-some Magnum tracks back-to-back on a set is comparable to using up all your drink at the start of a party but at least 'All England's Eyes' and 'Vigilante' are wisely kept till the late stage of the show. Having the two in that order is also hugely logical as the Leadmill looks on the verge of losing a few floorboards by the end.
A three-part encore is inevitable party time for the fans who followed them all of the last 50 years. Set staple 'Kingdom of Madness' smashes the room with similar force to the previous two numbers as Bob certainly does not look like he's needed that couple of minutes break from the stage. The title tracks carry on with 'On A Storyteller's Night' which while reintroduced at the expense of 'How Far Jerusalem' finishes off the trio from their benchmark 1985 release with equal same majestic Magnum panache - the ol' night light burning out of control by this stage.
'Sacred Hour' ends the set and although the only song from 'Chase The Dragon' on tonight's billing it could be hardly more rivalled for such a special ending - said album itself is 40 this year. If any band are not ready for the rocking chair yet you are looking at the group of (mostly) Brummie gentlemen who just brushed off a 16 song set in under 90 minutes - and if they were to walk past any furniture shop selling one in the window I'll be little surprised if they were to cross the road and look away.
Certain members of Deep Purple and the Rolling Stones are already even older than Messrs Catley and Clarkin themselves, yet still playing to a room of 500 as opposed to a stadium of 500,000 is an unarguable treat for the parties on either side of the barrier.
With rumours fluttering of the next album already in writing - never a holiday in the Clarkin camp - please let's hope Magnum don't have another 4 years delay for their next Sheffield visit.
By Dave Attrill