Another midweek night, another gig from a veteran band. This time it was melodic rock survivors Magnum who pitched up at Liverpool's O2 Academy, and it was a substantially different gig experience to the Y&T one of two nights earlier. For one thing, the turnout was only OK - they used the larger upstairs room, but to be honest this crowd could probably have fitted in the downstairs part without too much trouble. A far cry from their arena-headlining days of the late 1980s, but full marks for perservering long after the musical trend shifted away from their style of rock.
However the band have a lot of kit and so the bigger stage did suit them. I only got in around 15 minutes before they were due on, but had no problem finding a nice spot in the middle.
The other thing about this gig was the fact that Magnum chose to play a lot of songs from their new album 'Into The Valley of the Moonking'. It's not a CD I have got hold of yet, and so I was unfamiliar with much of the set played tonight. It seems a brave move from a band with a substantial back catalogue and many classics to choose from, to push their new material so heavily but it does show confidence in what they are doing now, as opposed to what they did 20 years back. In fact, it was at least an hour into the show before I heard anything I recognised, that being 'Les Morts Dansant'.
This did not detract from the band's performance; they still feature three of their classic line-up in keyboard player Mark Stanway, guitarist and songwriter Tony 'No Hat' Clarkin (!) and singer Bob Catley. Now into his 60s, Catley still sounds in good vocal shape and is backed well by bassist Al Barrow. The new songs were well received by those that did show, the crowd once again looked to be full of middle-aged blokes (looks in mirror here!) but there were quite a few women present too, and there were some younger fans in among the oldies (yaaay!) The drum stool is now occupied by everyone's favourite Bald Eagle, Mr Harry James. Harry was in fine form tonight; loud but not overwhelmingly so, he drives this band expertly. Tony Clarkin, although the creative force in the band, prefers to leave the spotlight with the singer; never looking to dominate proceedings with long solos, he always plays for the song.
The crowd really roared their appreciation once the band dipped into their oldies; 'Les Morts Dansant' was enthusiastically cheered and set closer 'Vigilante' ensured they left with loud roars ringing in their ears. Despite leaving out many of their favourites, such as 'The Spirit', 'Soldier of the Line' and 'Sacred Hour' they still delivered an entertaining set. As said earlier it was a brave move to do that and probably one that will irk some of their more long-term fans, but hats off (sorry Tony!) to them for taking the gamble.