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Manchester Apollo 11 May 2008

Following the release of their live double CD, recorded last year on the "Wings Of Heaven" 20th anniversary tour, Magnum are back on the road playing a set again based around the WoH album.

There was much discussion prior to the tour, involving the die-hard fans, about set list changes that could be made. The band listened to opinions, were actively involved in the discussions, and made some changes.

Bob Catley,Magnum: photo by Ian Pollard

There was an overwhelming groundswell of support for a return of "Back To Earth" to the set, and they duly obliged by opening with a high-energy rendition of it. This immediately got the crowd jumping, and set the tone perfectly for the rest of the evening. The fact that this was the opening number on the Wings tour 20 years ago just added to the occasion this time round.

Bob Catley shows no signs of slowing down, and was jumping around the stage like a man half his age, whilst working the crowd like only he can. Appropriately, "When We Were Younger" was the first of two songs from the latest studio album to be aired. The band seem to really enjoy playing this one, and it gives Tony Clarkin a chance to show what he can do with his nice shiny blackbird guitar. As always, he makes it all look effortless.

Tony Clarkin, Magnum: photo by Ian Pollard

A rare, and welcome, outing for "We All Need To Be Loved" from the Rock Art album follows. With the drum stool being occupied by Harry James this time round (due to Jimmy Copley's other commitments), it amazes me that he has managed to learn all these songs and execute them all perfectly. Most of the set he has not played before. This trend continues with the excellent "You'll Never Sleep". Not played live before this tour, but on this performance it should hopefully see regular future outings.

Al Barrow and Mark Stanway, Magnum: photo by Ian Pollard

Another long-missed favourite follows, with "Midnight" from the Vigilante album testing the whole band's powers of memory. I doubt that Al Barrow has ever played this one before this tour. Doesn't cause him any problems, of course, and he displays his near permanent Cheshire cat grin throughout. The ever-present "Vigilante" follows, in all its glory. Never dropped from the set since the album release, it still holds up as one of the best live songs ever - by any band.

Al, Harry, and Mark Stanway take a breather, whilst Bob and Tony treat us to the acoustic version of "The Spirit" - with a little help from the crowd. The atmosphere here tonight is brilliant, and the enthusiasm shown by all band members is returned in full by all present.

Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin, Magnum: photo by Ian Pollard

Bob hardly needs to work at getting everyone clapping or singing along, but I got the impression that it wouldn't have mattered if there had been 5 people there, the performance would have been just as enthusiastic and energetic.

"Days Of No Trust" heralds the start of the WoH run-through, which is performed in order and as close to perfect as can be. The sing-a-long-a-Bob intro to "Pray For The Day" is an identical replica of the way it was done 20 years ago, but Tony and Mark have made a few subtle changes to some of the guitar and keyboard parts - that seem to work really well.

The set is closed by the wonderful "Don't Wake The Lion", to huge applause and calls for more. The band duly oblige, with an encore comprising of "All England's Eyes" (a definite favourite, that has become a regular since the Storyteller anniversary tour, and guaranteed to keep the crowd bouncing), and "Kingdom Of Madness".

Having seen the band live 70-something times, I am never going to leave a gig disappointed because Magnum always deliver the goods. This time, however, there was something extra.

Everyone I spoke to after the gig was buzzing, and a number of comments along the lines of "their best ever" were overheard. It was a truly great performance from a band that were clearly thoroughly enjoying themselves. The changes to the set-list from the last outing worked well, and the interaction on stage was superb. Credit to the engineers too, as the sound was spot on throughout - Mark Stuart, take a bow please!

Set List:

Back To Earth
When We Were Younger
We All Need To Be Loved
You'll Never Sleep
Midnight (You Won't Be Sleeping)
The Spirit
Days Of No Trust
Wild Swan
Start Talking Love
One Step Away
It Must Have Been Love
Different Worlds
Pray For The Day
Don't Wake The Lion

All England's Eyes
Kingdom Of Madness

Review and photos  by Ian Pollard

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