Magma & The Utopia Strong – Band On The Wall, Manchester – 19th June 2022
A two-night stand in London and now Manchester gets a visitation from what Kavus Torabi, at the end of The Utopia Strong set called “the greatest band in the world!” In fact, be aware that Kavus has done a small piece for us on why he loves Magma which is currently in the publishing queue.
And sharing the stage with Magma, The Utopia Strong (and Steve Davis in particular who’s notorious for his Magma obsessive) were in a a win-win situation. Their own forty minute warm up set had been rapturously received. Perhaps the chance to let go after watching respectfully and maybe even in some awe. Kavus could barely be heard above the ovation as he tried to plug their return to the area at The Carlton Club in Chorlton (great set there last November). That was forty minutes after they first walked on, Steve first, taking a seat, donning his glasses and then setting to work on what looked like a telephone engineer’s nightmare (or what some might call a snake’s wedding) while Kavus worked up a drone on the harmonium.
Shrouded in deep red and purple light and a fair helping of smoke, the journey took in a series of passages based around the ‘what would happen if I do this!?’ philosophy. Each of the trio watching the other before picking up something to add to the mix- pink paisley guitar and a screwdriver? that’ll do. It might be an ebow led soaring flight of fancy or some vocal drones that present a new pathway or something more melodic from one o fMichael York’s more standard instruments.
There are a couple of noticable and knowing nods as they hit a sweet spot, which is particularly the case in a frenetic finale with York’s pipes carrying a tune, the guitar held aloft 9which always gets a response) and even Steve nodding – hopefully in approval -as he recognises they’re in the zone. He stands up, puffs out his cheeks ( I think we all know what he means) and the band departs.
The new album, International Treasure is just the tip of the iceberg. You don’t go along toa The Utopia Strong gig to hear them play it like it is on the record, which is the beauty of what they do. Tonight we struck a little bit of gold
The eleven piece Magma might have struggled to fit on the old Band on The Wall stage, never mind the dressing rooms. However, the new look, revamped venue (our first visit since it reopened) is expanded considerably so they do it with ease.Always a bit of an iconic space, it now provides ample stage space for thoseeleven musicians (although showhorning the TUS equipemnt in front was a bit tight) and their instruments to fit comfortably and at a height for all the audience to see. A position at the mixing desk now not only gives the best sound but also a pretty decent view.
So for anyone whose unsure of what planet we’re arrievd from when we talk of Zeuhl, think jazzy prog as the most basic of a core and then anything goes. There may have been many who’ve followed the iconic French band for decades, but aside from a general awareness, we’re strangers amongst them. Perhaps that’s a good thing as the chance to finally watch Magam do what they do (and have been doing) in league with The Utopia Strong provides an evening not to forget.
With figurehead Christian Vander at the drum kit, venturing forward for a vocal part at the latter ened of the set, there’s plenty to zone into: the twisting vocalisms of the lead parts or the troupe of backing vocalists, the pair of keyboards stage right and left either duelling or complementing, or the flurry of notes and impressive finger reaches coming from the bass.
They may have played a new one to open up – something about being on the next album – I may have misheard butt the focus again seems to see Magma similarly committed to the rule of ‘no boundaries’. Unlike TUS, there are some breaks between the flow of music; ‘songs’ they may even be with strangely exotic titles. Not many granted as the music ebbs and flows and and swoops and challenges and changes direction often enough that there’s no time to get bogged down.
Not that we’d dare disagree with Kavus, but let’s be diplomatic in saying we understand why he says Magma are the best band in the world. Maybe the best band at being Magma? They are legends and we can thankfully say the box was ticked.
Categories: Live Reviews