Magnum at Leamington Assembly, with the Rebecca Downes Band.

This is Magnum’s Road to Eternity tour in celebration of the release of their new, and 20th, studio album ‘Lost on the Road to Eternity’ which was let loose on Magnum fans in January this year. Before Bob Catley and co. come along we have the very amiable, and very talented, Rebecca Downes Band to get thing going. Rebecca Downes has seen considerable success over recent years underpinned by her success in the British Blues Awards where she has  won best female vocalist and best emerging band.

Effervescent and captivating, Rebecca Downes has one of those voices you could listen to all night and between songs she engages with the audience on a level rarely seen. Is she perfect….almost, but she admits to eating onion crispies like they’re going out of fashion!

With songs coming mainly from her most recent release, Believe, her 7-song set was short but immensely entertaining. The usual line-up of Steve Birkett, Dan Clark and Lloyd ‘Smiler’ Dakin was topped off by the 1st reserve’s 1st reserve keyboard-ist Nigel Darvill (Fine Young Cannibals), with regular teamster Rick Benton on duty for Magnum and 1st reserve Aidan Goldstraw unavailable Nigel did a fine job.

There were some cracking songs in the short set, which included ‘Sailing on a Pool of Tears’, ‘Believe’ and the band’s only cover, ‘With a Little Help From my Friends’; the finale also had the audience’s vocal support.

Rebecca, Steve and Lloyd also signed some charity photo’s, for which I’m grateful, I just have to hunt down Dan and Rick next time out to complete the set. It was also nice to see Rebecca’s parents in the audience again.

Magnum next, and thankfully there were no Ribena people here tonight (I’ll refer you back to the review for ‘Escape from the Shadow Garden’ where large numbers of fans dressed in purple t-shirts with purple hats and red noses and I don’t know about the Shadow Garden most looked like they’d escaped from a Ribena advert).

Although this is the Road to Eternity tour the band used their stage time to provide a series of teasers for the new album mixed in with an array of old favourites taken from albums released as far back as 1982.

Tonight’s line-up was Bob Catley, Tony Clarkin and Al Barrow with recent additions Rick Benton on keys & Lee Morris on drums.

The show gets under way with ‘When we Were Younger’ from 2007’s ‘Princess Alice & the Broken Arrow’ – if nothing else the band’s album titles are theatrical! The next six songs jumped from ‘Sacred Blood, Divine Lies’, the band’s 2016 release, and ‘Lost on the Road to Eternity’, their current release these songs, combined, made up the first half of the show and showcased the writing talent of Tony Clarkin. The second half of the set took the audience back into the Magnum archives and this part of the show got going with 2 fan favourites, ‘How Far Jerusalem’ and ‘Les Marts Dansant’, both coming from 1985’s ‘On a Storyteller’s Night’. In truth the writing skills of Tony Clarkin haven’t really changed too much, melodic rock with the occasional angry passage thrown in to liven things up. The quality of the writing is unquestionably good. While Rebecca Downes has grinmeister Llloyd Dakin looking after the smiles department, Magnum have bass-player extraordinaire Al Barrow in that role. It’s rare to see him without a smile or, more likely, a broad grin on his face as he supports the Clarkin guitar. As a bit of a side-swipe the band throw in one more song  from the new album, ‘Show Me Your Hands’, before drifting back again with songs from ‘Vigilante’, ‘Wings of Heaven’ and ‘On a Storyteller’s Night’ round off the set. A short break and the band return with ‘The Spirit’ from the long gone ‘Chase the Dragon’ (1982) and finally ‘When the World Comes Down’, another from ‘Vigilante’. A relatively mellow end to a super set of songs, one which showed the band’s strength in depth as they chose not to play a number of fan favourites….but then there is a limited amount of time to make their case, and they did that extremely well.

My thanks to Roland Hyams at Workhard PR for the press pass, to the band for signing a number of photo’s and to Annie Minion for organising the signing session and to all the fans that keep the band on the road, including Bob’s biggest fan which also posed for a photograph.

Words & pictures: Reg Richardson

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