Magnum, Vega, Theia
Islington Assembly Hall, London (England)
30th March, 2022
Live Review by Chris Galea
Magnum are one of those rare bands who don’t have even one album that I really loathe. I even like their live albums, such as “The Spirit” (1991) or “Marauder” (1980) and I’m not even a fan of live albums. So you might empathise with the palpable sense of excitement that I felt as I entered this north London venue to see the band for the very first time.
This was also the first time I went to a gig at the Islington Assembly Hall and rarely have gigs I’ve covered gone so smoothly… fully air-conditioned venue, no unnecessary hassles for the photo-pit, well-organised merch stands, etc.
Vega were one of the supporting bands and I only had a fleeting awareness of their music. No problem….I’m always eager to discover my next favourite band. But before Vega, there was another band which briefly strutted their musical wares….
Theia was a 2-man band augmented by pre-programmed samples. Before their first song, the duo held out a sign which said ‘Applause’ – clearly a witty initiative to encourage crowd involvement. And the drummer and guitarist / singer were dressed in what looked like paint-stained handyman overalls. Comedy seems to be an integral part of Theia.
The songs themselves tended to have Pop-leaning choruses and sounded rather generic, but I enjoyed the vibe during set closer ‘The Day’. It was hard to take the band seriously but as Kyle Lamley (Theia singer/guitarist) said, Theia’s show was all about entertainment.
Although Vega have seven albums to their name, this was my first real foray into the band’s music. Presenting themselves in a slightly Glam-like image, for Vega it was all about catchy and slick Hard Rock songs. As the band played the first few numbers of their set, Skid Row and Def Leppard were two points of reference that crossed my mind, especially the latter. During several moments of Vega’s set my mind also drifted to “Hot In The Shade”, which admittedly isn’t my favourite Kiss album.
Now enough name-dropping… Vega’s own material had a lot of strong melodies even though the songs themselves sometimes felt a bit mundane. There were a couple of ballads but I felt that the Rock-ier, more up-tempo parts of their set were more enjoyable. As if in vindication of my initial impressions, Vega ended their set with a cover of Def Leppard’s ‘Animal’.
Vega piqued enough of my interest to want to check out their music further. Good omen, I suppose.
Besides parading their recent “The Monster Roars” album, Magnum were also celebrating 5 decades since the band first came together. It’s hard to articulate what I find so appealing with Magnum’s music, but the quality of the band’s song-writing and the material’s execution always had a timeless characteristic to them. For me the songs sound great in context of any decade or mood.
This same timelessness had a physical embodiment tonight as band founders Tony Clarkin (guitar) and Bob Catley (vocals) performed with the same verve of someone half their age. Accompanying Clarkin and Catley were keyboard maestro Rick Benton, the versatile drummer Lee Morris (Paradise Lost, Marshall Law) and the ubiquitous Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Unisonic, Place Vendome) on bass.
With a bent on Magnum’s classic repertoire – in addition to a couple of surprises – the set-list included atmosphere, up-tempo Rock, introspection and anthemic material in order to make the concert a memorable experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Day After’ and ‘Rockin’ Chair’ brought back many happy memories. In ‘Les Morts Dansent’ the crowd’s singing of the chorus made that one of the show’s highlights. The familiar keyboard intro to ‘Vigilante’ elicited rapturous cheers and ‘All England Eyes’ got a similar reaction. There clearly were many passionate Magnum fans in Islington Assembly Hall.
‘Wild Swan’ hadn’t been in my personal wish list (and I suspect neither on that of other audience members), but I’m glad Magnum played it because it’s a great song with a great guitar melody… it has a very Whitesnake-like feel to it.
I would have liked to hear ‘Don’t Wake The Lion’, ‘The Prize’, ‘Sleepwalking’ or even the more recent ‘Archway Of Tears’ (“The Serpent Rings” is the best Magnum album in ages for me) but I definitely can’t complain… I’m more than satisfied with what the band opted to include.
Magnum rounded off with ‘A Storyteller’s Night’ and ‘Sacred Hour’ – two amazing songs – and Bob Catley seemed genuinely moved by the crowd’s warm response. Concert over, before the band members walked off the stage they all took a moment to seep in their fans’ adulation and signal their gratitude. Even the usually sombre-looking Tony Clarkin couldn’t resist smiling at that point.
“See the night sky supernova / Chase the cold moon passing over / Start the dragon’s fire to smoulder / On a storyteller’s night.”
As I zip up my jacket while I exit the venue, it struck me that Magnum’s performance was basically an enactment of their song ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’.
Islington Assembly Hall:
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