The phrase “One Man Rock Show” worried us a bit when we read it on the ticket. We thought of a disco (always crap) then of one of those blokes who walks around with cymbals on his knees (which thinking about it might have been kinda cool.)
In actual fact, Simon Lees’ One Man Rock Show (to give him – and his act – their full name) are none of those things. What he is, in actuality is a supremely talented guitarist (once of Budgie and sometimes of Anubis) who plays, if you will excuse the expression, with himself. That is to say, (ahem!) that he plays drums and bass on a backing track and overlays it with guitar riffs and sometimes his own vocals. When he does sing, it has a AOR, sort of FM feel about the tracks, “I’ll Give You Anything” for example is anthemic, while instrumentals like “Way Out West” showcase some real skill. This was a support slot that was way, way better than might have been expected.
When The Quireboys very own Spike walks in at 9.29 (and by the way, have you ever seen Spike at a gig when he wasn’t dressed as Spike?!) you know something damn good is going to happen at 9.30. What does happen is UK rock royalty Magnum walk onto the stage in their usual understated fashion and just like always they do so to a room full of the converted who are ready to be entertained.
This warm up show is to prepare the band for their appearances at this weekend’s Steelhouse Festival and The Cambridge Rock Festival in a couple of weeks. Broadly speaking it follows the same path that the shows they did last winter – and just like that show it is quite superb.
Last year’s stellar “On the 13th Day” record gives us opener “All The Dreamers” and from there the next 90 minutes a tremendous romp through one of the most underrated back catalogues around. The stuff like “All England’s Eyes” and “How Far Jerusalem” from the “On A Storytellers Night” is absolutely superb and the plaintive “When We Were Younger” gives a nice counterbalance to the early tracks.
After the closing “Kingdom Of Madness” there is an encore, which like last year, provides RTM with the chance to hear the song that got us into the band all those years ago, “Rockin’ Chair” sounds as catchy now as it did then, and whilst the lyrics might – given the ages of most of the band – might have taken on a different meaning (“I need my rock, but I don’t need a rockin’ chair,” sings Bob Catley”) the song is still fantastic.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly what makes this band so good. Is it Catley, the supreme guitar work of Tony Clarkin, or the fact that Thunder’s very own Harry James is belting the kit as only he can? Who knows! The fact is, though, that if you put it all together you get something very special indeed.
A little bit like Uriah Heep or UFO (or Saxon if you take it forward to the NWOBHM movement) Magnum’s legacy occasionally gets forgotten in comparison to perhaps more illustrious colleagues. That does not, however, make them any less excellent.