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Back in 1980, I was perusing the singles at my local branch of Woolworths, and saw a double live single by a band I had never heard of, but it was only 50p! Looking at the photo on the rear they appeared to be a rock band so thought I would give it a try. I took it home, played it, and was then straight back down the shops to purchase the latest album, ‘Marauder’. None of the four songs were contained on the live album, but I was immediately a fan of everything I heard. At the time I had no idea who they were, but on the basis of that album I ordered the first two, ‘Kingdom of Madness’ and ‘II’. From here on I was a fan, grabbing each album when it came out, but I don’t think even the fans were expecting the majestic might that was ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’ in 1985. During the Eighties/early Nineties I saw them in concert multiple times (the first time I ever saw IQ was when they supported Magnum!), but until the last studio album must confess to having heard nothing by the band since 2004’s ‘Brand New Morning’. Nothing to do with the band, but moving to the other side of the world meant I just lost touch with what they were doing. But when I realised they had a new live album out, then of course I had to get it. Guitarist Tony Clarkin and singer Bob Catley are of course still there, without them both this could never be Magnum, and bassist Al Barrow was working with them when Magnum stopped with Tony and Bob forming Hard Rain and has been in the band ever since. I am sorry to see Mark Stanway left in 2016 after many years of service, as I always felt he was a much under-rated keyboard player, but here he has been replaced by Rick Benton while drummer Lee Morris joined in 2007 when Thunder’s ‘Arry felt he could no longer commit. By now surely everyone knows what they are going to get from a Magnum concert. They have cornered the market in British pomp rock, and the way the keyboards and guitar link are really like no other. Tony has never enjoyed playing solos, so these are few and far between and are far slower and more melodic than one would expect from a guitar hero, as instead he provides the crunching riffs everyone enjoys so much. Just listen to the crowd joining in during “How Far Jerusalem”, not letting even an extended bass solo slow them down too much. This was their first gig in Birmingham for a while and was at the end of a 42-date tour, so both they and the crowd were on fire. The older numbers such as “Don’t Wake The Lion” are still my favourites to honest, just because I know them so very well indeed. Guest Tobias Sammet (Avantasia, Edguysounds like he also had a great time when he appeared for ‘Lost On The Road To Eternity’ to provide additional vocals, just like he did for the track’s studio recording. It is a wonderful album, with Bob showing that hitting 70 has had no impact whatsoever on his vocals – he is one singer I have always been impressed with as he is always in total control, and again proves it in spades. One problem of a band who have been going for so many years (formed in 1972, first album in 1978) is the amount of material they have available when it comes to a setlist, so there are always going to be favourites missing. But I never thought I would hear a Magnum concert without “Kingdom of Madness”, and it doesn’t appear to have been on the set list for when this was recorded on 19th April 2018. But that really is a small moan, Magnum have always been a great live band, and 40 years on from their debut they prove it yet again.
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