Magazine - HMV Forum, London - 12/2/09
04 Mar 2009
"i start to realise however important this band had been to music's evolution, many bands since have made their sound into something far more accomplished, taking the ideas further, leaving magazine a relic - a respected and still very highly regarded relic, nonetheless..."
2009 is all about reformations; it seems every living musician is cashing in on the nostalgia boom, and though some are exciting - such as Blur and The Specials - it was the reformation of Howard Devoto's seminal 70's band Magazine that had old school music fans bashing down the door of London's newly christened HMV Forum. In their day this band delivered some of the most pioneering records around; moving the three-chord punk of Devoto's Buzzcocks into the post-punk, inspiring bands such as XTC, REM, Echo and the Bunnymen, up to Blur and Franz Ferdinand.
However, where other bands from the era have either since given up the ghost of rock 'n' roll or continued touring for decades as bands such as The Stranglers have, Magazine's reformation came as a bombshell to fans, their sold out two night stint seeming a tad... unnecessary? They may be singing about being "shot on both sides", but this idea was sadly an absolute miss.
The show opens in typical crowd-silencing drama, a sense of showmanship that's lacking from most modern performances. It takes a veteran to get away with what Magazine can, with all due respect, aim for in regards of flamboyancy. Settled at ground level, Devoto stands as the Godlike figure I'd grown up with, the frontman I'd seen plastered across grubby record sleeves for as long as I can remember. He looks older than I'd imaged he would though; a bald and docile gentleman sporting a white blazer and three quarter length black trousers - somewhere between Paul Daniels and your drunken uncle, maybe. Then there's the dancing, the puerile aeroplane dancing which finds me embarrassed for him. They say never meet your heroes; they don't say anything about being embarrassed for them at a distance... do they?
The band look out of practice with little chemistry between them. Not that they ever had what we'd call a love-fuelled on-stage relationship, there was a noticeable distance which with a very over-rehearsed sound poorly mixed through the venues PA, left a very underwhelming feeling. The songs themselves appeared disappointingly dated, worryingly more so than they do on their records, arguably due to the bands lack of dynamite in sound. I get the sensation I'm watching a Magazine cover band, and not a good one at that. I feel as though I'm screening a very backward, bastardised keyhole view of history. Then I start to realise however important this band had been to music evolution, many bands since have made their sound into something far more accomplished, taking the ideas further, leaving Magazine a relic. A respected and still very highly regarded relic nonetheless.
I wonder though... Am I in a position to judge this band who released their most celebrated record almost ten years before I was born? Am I any more qualified to judge their importance than somebody can Foals or The Libertines in twenty five years time? A woman beside me says they've a "magical sound" before stating she was glad to remember them this time around. Backstage and others who'd seen Magazine in their heyday were equally as disappointed as I, and no matter how I struggle to find justice is dishonouring real legends, you can't help but deny the band has little relevance in 2009. This simply wasn't the punk show I'd hoped for, clutching my copy of Real Life, and I'd be amazed if anybody was truly awe-struck. In fairness, it was a fairly okay performance, but from such an acclaimed band we all expected more. We didn't want perfection, just enough to reinstate our relationships with their music. In that humble request I fear Magazine were a sore disappointment.