Magazine

The packed-out Slade Rooms are privileged to play host to a one-off warm-up gig by cult reformed band, Magazine, prior to their appearing at the July Hop Farm Festival.

Erica Nockalls and Miles Hunt

Support tonight is provided by Miles Hunt of The Wonder Stuff, accompanied by violinist and long-term collaborator, Erica Nockalls. The two have written and performed many songs together. I must confess to not knowing anything about their material or The Wonder Stuff and I had no expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. The two are a striking combo producing a unique sound, largely due to Erica’s amazing and original violin playing, which seems to span a range of styles. Erica really looked pretty far-out too – check out the pictures!

Miles HuntErica Nockalls

The duo also covered some Wonder Stuff tracks, but the highlight was a track dedicated to the late Poly Styrene, the X-Ray Spex track, “The Day the World Turned Day-Glo”. This drew great applause and rightly so, as it was a great interpretation of the song, played on acoustic guitar and violin and with the pair sharing vocal duties. Who would have thought it!

Magazine

Then, in darkness, on came Magazine. The band reformed for a number of shows in 2009, but this is their first public performance since then. The band was formed in 1977, when lead singer Howard Devoto left The Buzzcocks. Magazine had limited commercial success at the time and split in 1981, but they have since become a cult band that have influenced acts as diverse as Radiohead, Ministry and Morrissey. They are best known perhaps for their powerful and successful punk single “Shot by Both Sides” from 1978, which still gets frequent plays on the radio. However, after that single the band quickly moved-on from punk. The signs were already there from an early stage – Howard can be seen wearing red trousers on a ‘YouTube’ video from 1977!

Magazine

The critics now like them, but back in 1979 the popular music press of the punk era sneered at their rather sophisticated sound. The punk era was ‘year zero’ after all and bands should not use keyboards, make tracks over 3 minutes long or reference other influences. They were probably ahead of their time and there is still no band like them. Their style is pretty unique, intelligently blending punk with more experimental sounds incorporating keyboards and synthesizers, and taking on a wide range of influences including film music (they covered the Bond theme “Goldfinger”) and funk (like Sly Stone’s “Thank You”).

Magazine

The instrumental sound of the band is unique to them, but at the heart of the matter is Howard Devoto’s sneering punk style vocals, lyrics and attitude. “I know the meaning of life, it doesn’t help me a bit” he sings in “Song From Under the Floorboards”. However, they also have a sense of humour and don’t take themselves too seriously. The band has always demonstrated intelligence and are essentially ‘art school’, the approach being design-led, similar to the Factory Records ethic. Tonight they have special tee-shirts (black of course) on offer with the Wolverhampton date especially emblazoned, “MGZ 300611 WVH”.

Magazine

I must confess to bias, in that Magazine are one of my all time favourite bands and I have seen them live five times now, including seeing the original band back in 1979! Original and talented guitarist John McGeogh (who later joined Siousie and the Banchees) unfortunately died in 2004, but has been very ably replaced by Noko, who even uses the same Yamaha guitar and gadgets, and has the Magazine guitar sound off to a tee. Original bass player Barry Adamson played the 2009 reunion gigs, but is now tied-up with other work, and his spot is now well filled by new man, Jon ‘Stan’ White, who plays a good chunky bass sound. Otherwise the band is the original, with Howard, and key members Dave Formula on keyboards and John Doyle on drums.

Magazine

Fortunately, unlike many reformed band lead singers, Howard Devoto’s voice is as powerful and distinctive as it always was and he turns in a great performance. He has real presence on stage and all eyes follow him. The guy is pretty enigmatic and the show starts off with a reading, apparently from some 1970’s Magazine publicity or press coverage, in which I think he gently takes the mick out of his former self for slight pretentiousness! Or maybe it was about what the press thought he was about. If only Bono did that! During the show he amusingly presents the reformed band, now turning out some new material, as a computer update: ‘Magazine Upgrade Pack 6’. The crowd love the whole thing.

Magazine

The audience wants to hear all the great stuff that they haven’t heard for years and the band oblige with a well chosen selection of songs from their first three (and best) albums. The evening kicks-off with the stomping “The Light Pours Out of Me”, which, with its thumping bass and drums and big guitar riff has generally been the starter for the reformed band’s shows. A highlight for me is “Motorcade”, which tonight sounds particularly menacing and tense as it builds to a climax. The track is a paranoid vortex of sound, built around Dave Formula’s swirling keyboards and Noko’s guitar riff. Although the song is not about the famous Kennedy assassination motorcade, it always brings that event to mind and has that sort of tension attached. The word ‘motorcade’ is now inevitably associated with Kennedy.

MagazineMagazine

The band also introduces a new number, “Hello Mr Curtis”, from the forthcoming new album, which Howard dedicates to Terry Pratchett. You can already find the new track, which sounded pretty good, as played at Wolverhampton, on ‘You Tube’!

Magazine

”A Song From Under the Floorboards” is another Magazine classic that sounds better and better as the years progress and has been covered by several artists, including Morrissey, to whom Howard pays his thanks. “Permafrost” is the nearest Magazine get to psychedelia, and the number is especially powerful thanks to Noko’s tortured guitar playing, ending in a blaze of noise and feedback. The show finishes with the ever funky “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” by Sly and the Family Stone, with the rhythm section really doing their thing. The band leaves the stage to rapturous applause only to reappear to inevitably perform their biggest song “Shot by Both Sides”, as the encore. Finally, the band, seemingly pretty overwhelmed by the reception received, leave the stage as the barrage of noise finally ends.

MagazineMagazine

We can look forward to the new album later this year and hopefully some more tour dates. This band has plenty of life, ideas and attitude in them and is certainly far beyond a nostalgia act.

Magazine

Set list: The Light Pours Out of Me; Because You’re Frightened; Motorcade; A Song From Under the Floorboards; Parade; Hello Mr Curtis; Permafrost; Definitive Gaze; Thank You; Shot by Both Sides.

Photographs and Review by John Bentley

3 Responses to “Magazine + Miles Hunt + Erica Nockalls @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton, UK – 30 June 2011”

  1. jon cox Says:

    John I realy loved your review you summed magazine up perfectly. I can almost hear the tension and menasing motorcade, lets hope they do a tour to promoted the new record. jon

  2. john bentley Says:

    Thanks, Jon. I am a photographer basically, so it’s good the words worked too! It’s probably as I am huge fan! There are a load more photos on my Flickr site going back to 1979, when I first saw them. Link-
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/john_arc-images/sets/72157626399097153/

    I believe they will very likely do some dates later in year.

    john

  3. MattMan1959 Says:

    Indeed saw Magazine V. 6.0, Service Pack 1 ” thank you for upgrading! – Howard) at Glasgow o2 ABC and they were awesome! Dave – thank you for the eye contact and “thank you” down at the front stage as you finished, cos in the 3 gigs I’ve seen since 1979 that’s the best I’ve heard you play! Any fears of an “emptier” sound since Barry left are diminished ‘cos Stan is really good! Howard, you are still the main man and draw the audience eye! Noko, you are fantastic, tho I think your switch flicks didnt quite go the way you wanted a few times! Doyley – as reliable and enjoyable as always! 11 out of 10 you guys — GO AND GET THE NEW ALBUM NO THYSELF on WireSound!!!

Leave a Reply