Magnum / Vega

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Magnum / Vega

Magnum / Vega - Islington Assembly Hall, London (UK) - 13 May 2016

In a great evening showing the best of British, Vega supported Magnum in the traditional, if slightly run down, theatre setting of the Islington Assembly Hall, a pretty big venue filled to about two thirds capacity; what was not in short supply was the enthusiasm shown by the crowd!

Showcasing material mainly from their last two albums, Vega flew the flag for new British Rock masterfully. Clear and powerful singer Nick Workman, star vocalist of the night, reminded us of a cross between Joey Tempest and Joe Elliott with his stylised movements, cool demeanour and skilful handling of the crowd. Marcus Thurston is an accomplished guitarist and on tracks like 'The Wild, The Weird And The Wonderful' was able to show off his skill. A very fast player, without being flashy, his style was comparable to that of Reb Beach from Winger/Whitesnake. The rest of the band sounded great too. There was only one minor quibble; as a veteran of the eighties, it would have been nice to see more stage presence from the other members of the band; although we understand where the song-writing strengths come from, it is important not to rest on creative laurels and for all members of the band to get involved in giving the crowd a show. Jeans and T-shirt is an accepted uniform post nineties for the stage, but maybe there was something to be said in the eighties for dressing up and magnifying the stagecraft... food for thought. All that aside, moments like Workman's angelic performance on 'Saving Grace' and the effortless soaring vocals and harmonies of 'Wherever We Are' made this an enjoyable support band and raised the bar....

However, the audience were there to see Magnum and the love for this band was demonstrated by the loud and powerful reaction to 'Soldier Of The Line' from the audience, with a volume that made them seem like a sold out crowd and threatened to shake the foundations of the slightly dilapidated venue. Even though Bob Catley's voice was not on top form tonight, maybe due to prior extensive European touring, the crowd reacted well to several new tracks from the new album that included 'Sacred Blood, "Divine" Lies'. Despite the silver hair, Catley is not looking much older than when he was on prime-time music TV in the eighties and the band's brilliant songs have kept the fan base coming back for more (even if Catley appeared to be having to check on verse lyrics a lot more these days). Virtually a British institution in the face of the crowd adulation, Catley comes across with the modesty, but power of a King, one beloved even in his dotage.

Fortunately, the band do not take themselves too seriously as 'Crazy Old Mothers' suggests and it's all done with the tongue in cheek approach of the British when they attempt pomp and majesty. Despite the exaggerated Prog Rock moves, this is a fine AOR band and there were some truly great moments, such as 'On A Storyteller's Night' (that appeared nice and early in the set), 'Freedom Day', 'How Far Jerusalem', 'Les Morts Dansant' and 'All England's Eyes'. Never really a guitar hero band, Magnum is still all about the big chorus and, maybe, the keyboards. The omission of 'Just Like An Arrow' and 'Steal Your Heart' led to some speculation as to whether the band had catered in the set-list for Catley's more mature voice, and those tracks were indeed sorely missed. However, no-one could have attended the gig without being in awe of the Magnum phenomena and the Magnum Tribe which, by way of just one example – the power of the encore call for the band – must be one of the most loyal sets of fans around. Not to be sniffed at by any stretch.

Dawn Osborne

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