Magnum Live At Islington Assembly Hall, London

There aren’t many bands who mark forty plus years with an extensive UK tour promoting a brand new album as opposed to a full-on nostalgia show; but then again Magnum hasn’t followed the trend of many of their peers since their return from hiatus in the early 2000’s. As mentioned by our own Sir Tovey in his Lost on The Road To Eternity (Steamhammer) review, Magnum missed the nostalgia wave of recent times and thus, perhaps as a result, haven’t exactly been media darlings or more a recognisable name more on the periphery. This was certainly the case for me until finally discovering them with the aforementioned Lost …, discovering with it a rich and highly consistent catalogue; a new album more than capable of standing its own with even the band’s more highly regarded efforts.

Despite a lack of media presence, Magnum definitely have a strong, almost cult following as evidenced with tonight’s not quite sold out but still busy and anticipating throng of the mostly Magnum T-shirt cladded (shout out to the guy in the Netherlands Deathfest shirt). There is a very relaxed feel in the air tonight of people here to enjoy themselves with music, with a distinct and welcome lack of dickhead behaviour; proven by the very warm reception to support act Rebecca Downes’ entire set. Downes’ voice is strikingly powerful and dynamic as it matches the band’s (including Magnum’s own Rick Benton on keys) balance between blues, country and even hard rock superbly. Closing with a cover of The Beatles’ ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ which feels genuinely heartfelt, Rebecca Downes’ set is an assuredly fun and easy to enjoy affair which sets the tone for the night.

Still, people are here for Magnum without a doubt and the reaction that greets the band as they make their entrance (particularly for founding member Tony Clarkin) is massive as the band jump straight into the anthemic ‘When We Were Younger’. Right from the off Bob Catley is an animated and commanding presence and is visibly enjoying himself throughout, as are the rest of the band. With plenty expansive entries in their catalogue, tonight’s setlist is geared towards more of their punchier and immediate songs, particularly noticeable in the picks from their latest album which of course gets a strong representation. ‘Lost On The Road To Eternity’ makes an early appearance right after Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies’ (Steamhammer) title track and is soon followed by the mighty ‘Without Love’ and it is clear just how natural these feel in the set alongside the likes of ‘How Far Jerusalem’ and ‘Vigilante’.

There are the expected ballad and slower moments, and they do not disappoint, with ‘Crazy Old Mothers’ making an early appearance and ‘Les Morts Dansant’ further in; and even during these more delicate moments the crowd are fully into it, with friends joyously bellowing along word for word. The main set closes with ‘Don’t Wake The Lion (Too Old To Die Young)’ which sounds as apt a closer as they can possibly bring, not only for its massive and infectious chorus, but as it seems to champion the notion of Magnum not resting on the comforts of nostalgia, choosing to push forward with new material as strong as their previous catalogue and genuinely feeling excited; and this presence is infectious.

They may not be cutting edge or a flavour of the month band, but nights this enjoyable and affirming are irreplaceable.