I'm not sure if I can exactly recall what I've done with Mrs Villain on previous Valentine's Nights. I know we've gone out to restaurants, taken in a movie, stayed in with a takeaway (and watched a movie!) and I'm sure there was one year we were both recovering from stinking colds and just shut out the entire world. But I couldn't ever pin down any precise event in any precise year.
But neither of us will ever forget Valentine's Night 2009.
Regular readers will know I've long been hopelessly devoted to Howard and the boys in Magazine. Along with Johnny Cash, they were the act I most regretted never taking the opportunity to go see live. And after almost 30 years since their break-up, I had long given up hope.....
And just like buses when you've been hanging around waiting impatiently for an eternity, two of the damn things come along together - in other words, having made all the arrangements to go to the hometown show in Manchester on Saturday 14th, I got an 11th hour opportunity to also go along to the Glasgow show on Monday 16th.
Both turned out to be quite special, although what I saw in Glasgow was an identical set-list and an almost identical set of spoken intros by Howard Devoto. If it hadn't been for Dave Formula being hatless in Glasgow, the whole thing could have easily been a facsimilie. Soundwise, the Manchester show triumphed, but I reckon this was as much to do with the poor acoustics in The Glasgow Academy (I know from reading some initial reviews of the home town gig that some fans were critical of the acoustics at their Academy - believe me they are infinitely better than the similarly named venue 220 miles north....for one thing, I heard some great backing vocals in Manchester, last night they were totally lost)
Don't get me wrong....I'm not saying the Glasgow gig was anything less than stunning.....I was the one who was spoiled by seeing them in a superior location in front of an ecstatic and adoring home crowd.
As I mentioned, it was identical set-lists in the same running order. Much of the set was as anticipated in terms of fan favourites and songs that have appeared on various 'Best Of' collections released by a desperate record company over the past 25 years. But equally, there were some real unexpected gems and oddities drawn from obscure b-sides and long-forgotten LP tracks to keep the hardcore fans happy and the casual fans bewildered.
It was of course, just 4/5 of the classic Magazine line-up with Howard Devoto on lyrics, Barry Adamson on bass, Dave Formula on keyboards and John Doyle on drums. Taking the place of the late and great John McGeogh on guitar was Norman Fisher-Jones (aka Noko), formerly Howard's sidekick in Luxuria. Praise has to be heaped on Noko, for he did a fantastic job when he really was on a hiding to nothing.....
The band were on tremendous form, playing with a passion and an energy that belies their years (the average age must be nearer 60 than 50....). Howard's vocals were much better than any of us I think could dare have ever imagined....maybe the fact he hasn't sung on stage that often in recent years has protected his throat and thus allowed him to sound so good. Barry's bass playing was a joy to behold, especially on some of the real up-tempo numbers where, working in tandem with John, he drove the songs on at a frantic pace yet remaining cool and controlled and making it look effortless. Dave's keyboard playing??? I think he might have hit a bum note....or maybe two....over the course of each night....but that was probably deliberate (or is it just my ears at my age?) Anyway, every Magazine fan knows how important his contribution to the sound has been over the years, and live, his playing was every bit as soulful, poppy and progressive as you would expect depending on the song.
If I had a grumble, it would be that a few of my own personal favourites didn't make the set-list, but what was played more than made up for it:-
Intro - The Thin Air (taped..not live)
The Light Pours Out of Me
The Great Beautician/The Honeymoon Killers
Because You're Frightened
You Never Knew Me
Rhythm of Cruelty
I Want To Burn Again
A Song from Under the Floorboards
Twenty Years Ago/Definitive Gaze
Shot By Both Sides
Thank You (Falentinme Be Mice Elf Again)
I Love You You Big Dummy
Too many highlights to mention, and not a dull moment in a 90-minute set. But the sheer joy of the opening drum-beats on Saturday as I realised after all these years I was really seeing the band in the flesh will live with me until I no longer have the required grey matter in my brain....and even then I still reckon I'll get unexpected flashbacks.
On this basis, I have to advise any reader who might not be sure if the fact that one of their all time favourite bands of old have recently reformed and hit the road for a final payday before its time to pull on the slippers and puff on the pipe that its well worth taking a gamble on going along.
Magazine didn't disappoint - they surpassed every one of my hopes and expectations.
I am one very very happy chappy right now. I think you get the message.
mp3 : Magazine - Permafrost (live)*
mp3 : Magazine - A Song From Under The Floorboards (live)*
*Recorded at Melbourne Festival Hall, 6th September 1980.
PS : A review of the Glasgow gig from Mike of Manic Pop Thrills is here.