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Carling Academy, Newcastle

18 May 2007

"Do you lot know how brilliant you are?" Bob asks at the end, apparently genuinely overwhelmed by the reception. But he must know: it's not us, it's them.

Bob says clap and you clap. Bob says jump and you jump. Bob makes the whole front row of jumping, clapping middle-aged men feel twenty years younger, surreptitiously wiping tears from eyes while singing along with every word that comes out of Bob's mouth...

That's how brilliant Magnum are. No other band I've seen has that kind of heart and soul. You can't stand in a Magnum audience and not love them. And there's no experience to match standing in a crowd singing The Spirit. That's why Magnum concerts are always the best concerts I've ever been to, and last night was the best Magnum concert ever.

They played for an hour and three quarters. The Academy is a large venue, all standing and surprisingly packed. I think their audience is actually getting bigger each year! For a band I once saw playing to 100 people just before they decided to split up... incredible... I feel a song about phoenixes coming on...

Bob Catley is looking his age (which is certainly too old for those trousers) but sounding twenty years younger. Tony Clarkin is as usual content to underplay, concentrating on what the songs need instead of trying to be some kind of guitar god, but when he cuts loose with a long solo in How Far Jerusalem or a long jam with Mark to introduce Sacred Hour, you remember just how good he can be. Mark Stanway is still an understated wizard of the keyboards. Al Barrow on bass still has an I'm-so-happy-to-be-playing-this attitude that's completely infectious. And back on drums, Harry James is just... monstrous.

They opened with a song from the new album and followed it with Back Street Kid (my favourite song), and freely mixed new songs and classics for the rest of the night. The classics are drawn heavily from Storyteller's but you also get Vigilante (my hands are still bruised from clapping) and Kingdom of Madness, with Sacred Hour (always our song...) for an encore. The new songs are strong compositions and show that Tony hasn't lost his touch; he's still my favourite song writer. They all have the typical Magnum sound: beautiful vocal melodies over heavy guitar riffs and moody keyboards.

And they had smoke! Magnum is always associated with clouds of billowing smoke in my memories...

They can write new songs, they can change members, they can grow older, but they'll never really change. And that's why we'll always love them.

Why are Magnum audiences so brilliant, Bob? Isn't it obvious?