Kingdom of Madness

Cluny, Newcastle

19 October 2022

Before I talk about Kingdom of Madness, I have to mention the most entertaining support act I've seen in a long time.

I remember a band called the Quireboys back in the 80s, and I know that they became pretty big, but to be honest I never paid much attention to them. So I had no idea their singer, Spike, was a Geordie. Well he is, and he's back in Toon from Los Angeles (or wherever) to see his Mam, and his old friend Mark Stanway called and said "Do you want to play a set tonight?" so he said yes, and here's here with a guitar, and he has no idea what he's going to play...

And he entertained us with 30 minutes of random covers and unprintable anecdotes, seemingly completely unprepared, and it was shambolically glorious. He rarely finished a song, he keeps stopping to tell us a story, or heckle the crowd ("Is he a Mackem?" he asks when someone at the bar gets too loud), or give us a new excuse for why that was the wrong chord. But 30 minutes of Lindisfarne, The Animals, and others, went down perfectly with this home-town crowd, who sang every word. And I never in my life imagined I would stand in a crowd of aging, rocking Geordies, singing I Will Always Love You at the top of our voices. And he encored with Blaydon Races while Mark Stanway tried to drag him off the stage. Surreal and brilliant. I don't know if this would work anywhere other than Newcastle.

So, Kingdom of Madness. The band line-up has changed since I last saw them, but the core is still Mark Stanway (keyboards) and Mickey Barker (drums), two members of what I'm sure everybody would agree was the definitive Magnum line-up. And their mission statement is to play all the Magnum songs that line-up made famous. I think they play at least one song from each of the ten (?) classic albums, not always the songs you would have expected but still a perfect set that seemed perfectly balanced.

It's pure nostalgia, of course, but that's fine. Nostalgia doesn't have to be a bad thing, not when it's presented with this much care for the music, and you can see the band loves playing together, and you can see how much the crowd loves these songs. When you're in a crowd that can sing not only all the choruses of the "hits" but every word of the songs Magnum never play any more, like Back to Earth or The Tall Ships, you can see that this band is doing something right.

Of course we sing every song, because these songs are brilliant. And Kingdom of Madness play them right. The drums are thunderous when needed, but Mickey Barker can also dial it back and play with the feeling needed for the songs to breath. The keyboards are majestic, as they should be. The guitar player (who I don't know, sorry) is superb, he has a more flashy style than I would have expected, but always seems to find the right feel for each song. Everyone in the band does a great job, they sound right for the songs without slavishly copying the albums, they seem to be having a great time playing together, and they generate a superb atmosphere in the (sadly sparsely full) hall.

I think this line-up is musically tighter than the one I saw three years ago. And, it's not fair to compare, but I honestly think they play these songs better than Magnum do now.

And we sang, and we clapped, and we generally felt like we were at a Magnum concert.

And you all know that a Magnum concert is the best concert you will ever see.