Artist: Magnum & Neonfly

Venue: 02 Academy, Newcastle  

Date: 30 April 2014   

When it comes to the Classic Rock bands they don’t any more Classic than Magnum with a career spanning four decades, formed in the early 70’s by Tony Clarkin and Bob Catley, along with Kex Gorin and Bob Doyle, but the core of the band of Clarkin and Catley have remained to this day, along with long-time keyboardist Mark Stanway, bassist Al Barrow and Harry James who joined the band in 2001 and this line-up has remained fairly static since.  Now tonight the band return to Newcastle with a brand new album under their belts, the stella 'Escape From The Shadow Garden'.  The boys once again delivered a set that not only covered the new album, but also threw in some Classic Magnum tracks, but before all that it was London’s Progressive Metallers Neonfly to show their worth. 

Led by enigmatic frontman Willy Norton, the twin guitars of Fredrick Thunder and Patrick Harrington, and the rhythm section of Paul Miller and Boris Le Gal on bass and drums respectively, the band hit the stage running as they opened up with ‘Ship With No Sail’ from the bands debut album 'Outshine The Sun' and instantly the band had me hooked.  

This wasn’t my first sighting of the band, I caught them at the 2011 SOS Festival and since then the band have definitely honed their stage craft. 

They kept the big tunes coming as it was straight into ‘The Enemy’, another song taken from their debut release, with the twin guitars of Thunder and Harrington bringing the six string heat on this one.  

Then it was time for the band to show their melodic side with the excellent ‘A Gift To Remember’, before venturing on to something new from the bands forthcoming new album due out later this year, ‘Better Angels’.  Another track that showcased perfectly that melodic metal side of the band.  This one is a real thumper and sounds a lot different from the acoustic version I'd seen on YouTube.

With a short time slot the band delivered a three song mash-up of ‘The Revenant / The Ornament / Spitting Blood’, which interlinked so well it could have been a 15 minute epic, then it was time to slip another taste of things to come from the new album with ‘Heart of the Sun’.  This had a definite Progressive Metal element running through it which went down a storm.  The band rounded off the set in style with ‘Morning Star’, but not before thanking Gibson guitars and Al Barrow for the lone of the equipment, as the band had theirs stolen when they played Bradford earlier in the tour.

This was a very impressive set from the Londoners and the new songs impressed.  I can't wait to hear the new album.   

Neonfly setlist: Ship With No Sails, The Enemy, A Gift To Remember, Better Angels, The Revenant/The Ornament/Spitting Blood, Heart of the Sun , Morning Star. 

Now for the main event, Birmingham’s finest Magnum, who showed why they have become a firm favourite with the Newcastle rock crowd, as this packed venue was given a masterclass in great rock n' roll.

The band walked on stage to warm rapturous applause and chants the set about bringing us a sixteen song  set that mixed both old and new in perfect harmony.

Bob and the boys opened up with the opening track off the excellent new album 'Escape From The Shadow Garden', ‘Live Til You Die’ and instantly Catley had the crowd in the palm of his hands, and from here on in the band did no wrong.

The band then rolled things back a few years to their 2011 'The Visitation' album for ‘Black Skies’ and the excellent ‘Freedom Day’, with Clarkin’s guitars soaring above the adoring masses.  A man of little expression on stage, he just lets his guitar do the talking and tonight it not only talked, it sang like a six string siren, drawing the crowd in with each chord.  

It was then time for a couple of tracks from their last album ‘On The 13th Day’, as Harry James thunderous (pun intended) drumming and the bass lines of Barrow and Clarkin’s guitars opened up the massive ‘Dance of the Black Tattoo’, with Catley parading around the stage like a man half his age, giving his all as always.  Then it was straight into the majestic tones of ‘Blood Red Laughter’.  

Now it was time to bring things down a touch as we returned to the new album for the haunting melodies of ‘Unwritten Sacrifice’.  

The crowd was lapping up the songs like a cat at a saucer of cream and so without further ado the time came to add some classic Magnum into the mix, and what better way than with ‘How Far Jerusalem’.  This song might be coming up to being 30 years old, but it still sends shivers down the spines of many a Magnum fan, luckily tonight the Newcastle choir had brought along their best voices, as we all on mass sang along to this one.

The classics kept on coming with another titan from the bands vast back catalogue ‘Les Morts Dansant’, another gem from 'On A Story Tellers Night’ and one of Clarkin’s finest songs to date.  A simple song that just paints a picture in your mind and tonight the room was filled with sheer Rock art at it's very finest.

It was back to the new album for the stunning ‘Falling For The Big Plan’, before the classic's returned with what else but ‘The Spirit’.  Another timeless song that Magnum fans will never get tired of hearing and tonight this one brought out the rarest of smiles from Clarkin, as he and Catley stood side-by-side for the start of this one, before the rest of the band and the crowd joined in on the massive chorus definitely one of the highlights of the set.  

The tempo was picked up big style with ‘All My Bridges’, the only song from the ' Into The Valley of the Moonking’ album, before returning to the classics once again for three monsters.  First up ' All England’s Eyes’, then 'Vigilante' rocked us all big time, as it always does!, then it was time for the set closer, ‘Kingdom of Madness’, which had everyone frothing at the mouth and rocking the house down like there was no tomorrow, despite Clarkin having guitar sound problems, which again led to a wry smile from the six string genius.

The band hadn’t had to time to leave the stage and the thunderous chants of "MAGNUM! MAGNUM!" and "MORE!" filled the air.  It wasn’t long before we got more as the band brought out some good time rock n' roll with the superb ‘Too Many Clowns’, a real barnstorming rocker from the new album and a favourite of many.  The night came to a close with not just the icing on the cake, but the cherry on the top as well with ‘Sacred Hour’, which capped off one of the finest sets from the band in many a year.  The intro from Stanway still as stunning as it was the very first time I heard it played. 

 'Sacred Hour' was the actually very first song I ever heard on CD, with my friend telling me to listen as we crowded round the speakers and let the breathtaking intro soak into us.  It sent shivers down my spine that day and continues to do so when I hear it played live to this day.  If you asked people to name their favourite intro I dare say a lot might choose AC/DC, GNR or Bon Jovi perhaps, but to me the intro to 'Sacred Hour' is one of the most beautifully stunning intro's anyone is ever likely to hear, and will forever get my vote.

Tonight we the Magnum massive gathered for two hours of pure bliss and pure bliss is exactly what we received.  As long as Bob, Tony, Mark & Co. continue to tour, their fans will be out in force to support them.  And I must say, Bob was looking particularly youthful and sprightly tonight, definitely not in need of that "Rocking Chair" just yet!

Magnum setlist: Live Til You Die, Black Skies, Freedom Day, Dance of the Black Tattoo, Blood Red Laughter, Unwritten Sacrifice, How Far Jerusalem , Les Morts Dansant, Falling For The Big Plan, The Spirit, All My Bridges, All England’s Eyes, Vigilante, Kingdom Of Madness.  

Encore: Too Many Clowns, Sacred Hour

Review by: Barry McMinn & Little Linda


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