Monday 16 February 2009

Magazine / Ipso Facto at The Forum 13 February 2009

Magazine rehearsal pic by Graeme Oxby

I’m going to get round to new bands soon. I promise…

But when I found out that Magazine were getting together for a few dates after breaking up some thirty years ago, I just had to have me some of that.

As a kid, Magazine were my favourite band – I sent away to their fan club and received a badly photocopied scrap of paper and a couple of badges. And despite never receiving anything else from them, I was happy as a clam. And I never ever got to see them live.

It’s weird that I get the chance to see the band so soon after checking out their progenitors, Buzzcocks, the other week. Initially I was going to say that I am surprised that the two bands are so very different, but that’s not really the point – Magazine don’t sound like ANYONE else.

Tonight it is clear that many guys of my vintage have had the same idea. The Forum is packed to the roof with blokes in their late forties and we’re all dressed in black. The souvenir stall is doing a brisk business in Magazine coffee mugs.

In their support slot Ipso Facto give it their best effort. They are the same tonight as they are every time I see them – it is as though the Devil once appeared and offered to put them on the front of every music and fashion mag. The price the Devil extracted was that they would have no songs to speak of.

Not that they are bad, mind. They just stick far more in the eye than they do the ear.

After the girls depart an expectant hush descends. From behind a curtain we hear Howard Devoto, Magazine’s gaunt and weird front man declaiming. It’s not at all clear about what.

Then the curtains part and finally, after all these years, it’s my childhood favourites. And they look and sound magnificent. The opening number is ‘The Light Pours Out Of Me’ and it’s a wonderful, soaring epic.

Bassist Barry Adamson looks like the coolest man alive in dark glasses and stove pipe hat. Dave Formula (the man who instigated this reunion) lords it over banks and banks of keyboards. John Doyle perches behind a huge drum kit.

The place of the late John McGeoch on guitar is taken by Noko, a seasoned Devoto collaborator. He does a fine job this evening.

I had always thought that it was Howard Devoto’s aversion to live performance that had split up the band. If that were the case, he has certainly exorcised those demons. No longer gaunt and weird, but now chubby and chipper, he revels in his role as an avuncular master of ceremonies. He struts, he conducts the rest of the band, and he is every inch the showman. No sign of nerves at all.

The sound tonight is crystal clear and the massed keyboards and pounding bass get the whole crowd going. There are sporadic guest appearances from Ipso Facto on backing vocals, which they perform admirably.

Another surprise is that although tonight’s set is understandably heavy on the classic tracks from the first three Magazine albums, there are also selections from their much maligned fourth, ‘Magic, Murder and the Weather’. I’m not sure that these have ever been played live before.

This gig is so pitch perfect that it is hard to pick out highlights. “Song From Under the Floorboards”, “Great Beautician in the Sky”, “Because You’re Frightened”, “Rhythm of Cruelty” – it’s greatest hits all the way. Well, greatest hits if you are as big a bunch of fans as we are tonight.

It’s not just an exercise in reproducing the albums, however. The band occasionally run tracks into each other, most notably when B-side “Twenty Years Ago” is extended and twisted into the majestic “Real Life”. Howard also gets to do a spoken word piece “The Book”, from behind a temporary lectern.

Did they do “Shot By Both Sides” and “Thank You (Falletin me be mice elf agin)? Yes! Did they do “Definitive Gaze”? Sure! Did we enjoy it? You betcha! Are we going to bore the kids with this? Definitely.

Magazine have so far intimated that these few gigs are going to be it. But they seem to be having so much fun tonight that it is hard to believe that they won’t venture forth a little more. If they do, beg steal or borrow a ticket – you don’t have to be an old guy to love this band.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recently picked up the first LP on CD (I've had it on vinyl for years), because I love "Shot" & "Light" so much. Never been that sure about the rest though... - PJK