Live Review : Magnum + Theia @ Parr Hall, Warrington on June 13th 2019
I’ve known Theia for a while now, but I have a confession to make – I’m still not 100% certain of the correct way to pronounce their name! Thay-a? Thee-arh? Thy-ah? Nope, not a clue. Which makes it a bit difficult to tell people in person how good they are if I’m honest. They are a young 3-piece outfit from the Midlands. Guitarist Kyle and bassist Paul have been the mainstay of the band over the last 7 years, because they have a bit of a Spinal Tap thing going on with drummers. There have been a few, although to the best of my knowledge none of them have actually exploded yet.
Theia are a classic hard rock outfit. Their songs are well crafted and well executed. Influences? Very much AC/DC and others of that genre. Ability? Yep, got that in spades. Charisma? Also check. Decent songs? Yep, lots of them too. They have fun, and they make sure you have fun watching them. Tonight they were playing to a crowd that wasn’t hostile, but was somewhat wary, and by the end of the set they had won them over completely and they had all the cheers and applause they could possibly want. They ripped through songs from all 3 of their albums, finishing with what has become a standard, the singalong “Whoop De F*cking Do” and the crowd lapped it up. Hopefully good things are in the future for these lads, they certainly work hard enough to deserve them.
Headliners Magnum on the other hand seem to have been around forever, and in all of those years they have managed to teeter just on the edge of greatness and the big bucks without actually managing to get there. Which is a shame, because they are so very good at what they do.
It’s been a long time since I last saw Magnum live – it was about 1983 I think – and the first thing I notice is that although Bob Catley still has the power in his vocals and he can certainly hold a tune he seems to have lost a little of his old range, particularly at the top end. He also still does the odd wavy fluttery thing with his hands that he always did. Sometimes it makes him look like he is conducting the band and crowd like a giant orchestra, which is a thought that makes me smile.
I am a little disappointed with the other original band member, guitarist Tony Clarkin. Not because of his playing, he’s still damn good at that, but because I remember him being a man of hats back in the day and it seems wrong watching him play without one.
I couldn’t tell you which songs they played, as I’m not overly familiar with their back catalogue. I know there were none of the very old songs that I remember, and there was one about eternity that did seem to go on for quite a while. Their audience seems to be mostly Gentlemen Of A Certain Age, and I may not know the songs but they certainly do. Choruses are sung along to, air guitars are played, eyes are closed and heads with (I suspect) a lot less hair than they used to have are shaken. The music is soft rock, prog rock, geek rock even, but every now and again there’s a hard edge too. It’s a bit like eating a cake and finding a file in it after about the third bite.
There are no 3-minute songs tonight. There’s one which I think may be called ‘Jerusalem’. No, not that one, this is a well-crafted slice of progressive rock with some stunning guitar work from Tony and also a keyboard wizard doing his thing, of course. The sound swirls and rises and falls around you, folding you in and carrying you along with it. There are moments when the crowd and the band bounce, that’s going to hurt in the morning, and there are moments when the crowd stand in awed silence just drinking in the atmosphere. A brief interval and the band are back to do a 3-song encore before basking in the warmth of their people. Overall it was a good night, I don’t think I could honestly call myself a massive fan of Magnum but they do what they do so well that I couldn’t help feeling glad to be part of it.
Words and photography by Jo Crosby