My ballet pumps stick ungracefully to the venue floor. A spit n sawdust sort of rock gig. The bloke with the mixing desk takes up a good percentage of the floor space. He must be important, in his standard rock gig T-Shirt. My friend and I sip our lime and soda’s and the backing group strike up some chords, a most unusual two piece rock band. She’s never heard of Magnum and came with me as a favour. I raise my eyebrows to my gig companion.
“It’ll get better.” I say in way of reassurance. My utterances lost on the scraping wires of the front man’s guitar. This kind of venue, keeps it real. If you’re good, the crowd feel it and if you’re crap, there’s a fool proof lie detector crowd response tracing in the flat line charitable clapping.
I came here to see Magnum. These are the real deal British vintage rock band. Even though they are an unorthodox mix of musicians, they create a rustic, rock alchemy that works in the beams and the rafters and stays impeccably timeless. I saw them 25 years ago. The music is made timeless by the craftsmanship of their lyric. Each song woven effortlessly into the fabric of each century and epoch. That which sounded relevant yesterday, will sound equally so tomorrow and the day after. The new “Visitation” albumn has a time piece mechanism designed on the front cover. Very appropriate, Magnum may visit or revisit you, in their rock time machine. And I do like the song “Tonight’s the Night.” A Visitation. Tonight? Great I’ll get the beers in.
I see a simple set, understated yet powerful. Thankfully, it is the group and the music that provide that undeniable Rock Theatre effect. The drums and the keyboards are rightfully on a higher stage. Mark Stanway’s keyboard plays to the higher aesthetic. Mystifyingly unmistakable. Harry James’ drums are the band’s core, when he moves his foot pedal the sound echoes with vibration in the chambers of my heart. That’s when I know I’m at a rock gig, when I feel them drums beating in my heart.
Clearly, with this rock group, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Musical fusion and harmony after many years and many different employees. When the lead vocals and song writer stay in a band, their signature essence of magical, hip swaying, theatrical rock remains intact.
“How far Jerusalem?” Yrusalaym in Arabic, meaning “Abode of Peace.” Yru/salaym, the word is starting to look like asylum. Indeed it is the Holiest of Cities for Christianity, Judaism and Islam. I don’t quite understand what Tony Clarkin was writing in the lyric, but I do know how to sing along with the song.
Bob Catley, (vocals), is most definitely old school rock and who cares that he isn’t made over into something other than what he actually is, a veteran of the rock stage. The simplest of shirt changes created an atmosphere and mood change. He changed from blue, (prior to encore), to red, after the encore. Very clever, very subtle, very experienced in an experienced rock magician way of increasing the drama for the now enraptured crowd.
My blog would be incomplete without mentioning the lyrical skill of “On a Story Tellers Night.” Few and far between are the song lyrics that transport you into the created metaphor. At sixteen, on first hearing this song, I was there in a room with a big open fire, listening to a story teller of old and warding off the chill wind and rain and those footsteps that you’re not sure about. Even now, the powerful story telling imagery in this very great rock song, has me lighting a storm lamp and keeping that night light burning for story tellers both old and new.
And so a very well deserved tribute, my mark of respect to Mr. Bob Catley and Mr. Tony Clarkin and their band Magnum for the depth of their musical and lyrical metaphors. The show was brilliant. Thank you for keeping it real. 40 years down the line and you still cut it in the right places. Even now, after all these years, and with the new Visitation, still, we should all, “Keep thee night light burning,” for Magnum and for their real deal brand of British Rock that they have every right to claim as their own.