At O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., May 22, 2016

Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin from MAGNUM (Live at O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., May 22, 2016)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Across a recording career stretching back almost four decades, Magnum have become one of the UK’s most revered Hard Rock bands. The path along the way has not always been easy. The collapse of their label and a health scare for lead guitarist Tony Clarkin all but finished the band in 1983 but from such adversity they bounced back with their stand out On A Storyteller’s Night opus, an album that still yields a fair few songs in their set today. 1988’s Wings of Heaven brought them the biggest success of their career, cracking the UK Top 5, spawning a bunch of hit singles and culminating in a sold out tour including a triumphant appearance at Wembley Arena. By 1995 it was all over. The musical climate had changed and the band seemed to have run out of steam.

They say that a change is as good as a rest and just over half a decade later, a rejuvenated Magnum returned and the rest is history as their latest album Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies sees them release their strongest album since their halcyon days of the ’80s.

Throughout their career, Magnum have never failed to draw big crowds to their show, even during the hard times and tonight’s show in the O2 Academy was no exception. Magnum may have been around the block a few times but, unlike some of their contemporaries, their setlists have never become stale and constantly evolve from tour to tour and part of that is down to their desire to play a fair amount of new songs alongside the classics that everyone demands and a couple of vintage cuts for the longstanding obsessives.

It was the latter who are catered for first with a stunning Soldier of the Line from their classic Chase the Dragon album. It’s been a long, long time since this featured in their set and its inclusion certainly set the touch paper alight and follow up On A Story Teller’s Night provided the knockout blow.
With no fewer than half of the new album featured across the course of the show including the hard hitting title track, the epic melodrama of Princess In Rags (The Cult), a real slice of classic Magnum and Your Dreams Won’t Die, a beautiful ballad brought to life by lead singer, Bob Catley’s, emotive delivery, Magnum ensured a rich and varied show.

A truly regal How Far Jerusalem, for so long as staple of the set, still sounds bold and dramatic with guitarist and songwriter Tony Clarkin showing how his restrained approach to solos breathes life into his songs in a way shredders could not. It’s all about the song and the melody and Clarkin is one of the best in the business for that.

Clarkin has always penned songs with a strong anti-war sentiment but Les Morts Dansant took on an even more poignant feel with this currently being the centenary of the Great War. Clarkin’s tale of a soldier facing the firing squad and Catley’s impassioned vocals were sublime and you’d swear there was a tear in the corner of Catley’s eye at the end of the song. This was soul stirring stuff.

With old favourites Vigilante and Kingdom of Madness either side of a spine tingling The Spirit bringing the show to an end, Magnum yet again proved why they have remained such a popular draw on the live circuit.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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