MAGNUS @Ancienne Belgique, Brussels – 27 March 2015
After the absolute masterpiece ‘Keep You Close’, sequenced nine months after by ‘Following Sea’, the latest dEUS albums, Tom Barman takes a break from writing personal and deeply dramatic music and resurrects the electro project with CJ Bolland. Under the name of Magnus, they have released only two albums in 10 years, but their signature is sufficient to any event they put forward. Given Barman’s creative force, which remains a constant through the diversity of any style his genius might fancy to approach, a setlist mixing songs from 2004 and 2014 was definitely something to witness live.
Their first album ‘The Body Gave You Everything’ was released soon after Barman’s movie ‘Anyway the Wind Blows’. Its outstanding soundtrack includes ‘Summer’s Here’, as movie theme and ‘Rhythm Is Deified’. Their second album ‘Where Neon Goes To Die’ benefits from collaborations with an impressive guest list, including Tom Smith of Editor, David Eugene Edwards of Wovenhand, francophone rising stars Mina Tindle and Selah Sue, Tim Vanhamel of Millionaire, Portuguese artist Blaya. A version of the single ‘Singing Man’ was recorded with the one and only Mark Lanegan.
The concert was festively wrapped up in a six-hour special event in Ancienne Belgique, with a public interview, an opening act DJ Faisal and an after party as well. The event was sold out on the venue’s page. However when they started there were still some places inside but not that many, AB was pretty packed.
Five minutes later than announced, Magnus appear on a stage flooded in blue light, with ‘Death of Neon’ chosen as warm-up song. There wasn’t much movement or happening on stage during the first half of the show. The background was reserved to the wall of electro-rock sound, percussion (drummer Christophe Claeys ex-Balthazar), keyboards (Joris Caluwaerts) and to the sound producing gear of CJ Bolland. Plenty of space in front for the playing and dancing with guitar of Tim Vanhamel and Barman’s energy releasing jumps. Tom Barman was by far the most active, passing from singing, switching mic effects on and off, playing the guitar, shaking tambourines and having a good time performing his moves.
The excitement of the dance was poured into music, more and more obvious as the setlist revealed a combination of old and new songs. The energy level rose with ‘Rhythm Is Deified’ and ‘Jumpneedle’ where CJ Bolland’s role increased considerably. The concert seemed to have started only after this small introductory set.
Magnus live is much more energetic and dynamic than on the record, the songs are enriched with the DJ style mixing contribution of CJ, the intros are cut (with few exceptions) and different parts are taken over in turn by the other instruments, like keyboards on ‘French Movies’.
The audience was not quite explosively reactive and preferred to manifest their enthusiasm mostly between the songs. There was some movement in front of the stage, mostly around Barman’s spot and also here and there in some other isolated cases. It doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have express themselves more loudly if they had been invited so, but they received little encouragement coming from the stage.
Even without Lanegan’s voice, the liveliest moment was, as expected, on ‘Singing Man’, a blast that marked the first half of the show and even put the audience in motion. ‘Last Bend’ however did not manage to keep the spirit up and sounded a bit boring and monotone. People started to talk to each other and check their phones and facebook, maybe posting their previous good live song experience. But the show was far from being over and Magnus had a couple of more surprises. The audience was thrilled again on ‘Everybody Loves Repetition’, when Selah Sue came along to enrich the ambience with her lovely presence and voice to everybody’s delight.
My favorite moment was ‘Assault on Magnus’. Although a song from 2004, it was exquisitely built up live. There was a feeling of increasing tension and live music jamming throughout it, almost like a continuous escalating teasing. I almost thought that the peak would not be delivered, but hell, yes, the rhythms are picked by CJ Bolland who defines it and ends it alone on stage.
‘Puppy’ proved an excellent choice for ending the setlist, getting a more vigorous reaction from the audience and setting up a funky jazzy tone which continued during their two encores (they left the stage just for one minute). Last surprise of the evening, the front stage is reinforced with dEUS’ Alan Gevaert bass player, joining the band for ‘Summer’s Here’, song that ended the gig in force at 22:18, unfortunately without any claiming for a come back.
Could it have been a better show? I heard complains about the poor sound and the extra noise which had undesirable effect on the overall sound. Maybe more excitement from the audience was too much anticipated or at least expected. Buy everything that might have missed that evening was generously compensated by a carefully constructed show, delivered at high quality standards.
Death of Neon
Rhythm Is Deified
Trouble On A Par
Everybody Loves Repetition (with Selah Sue)
Assault on Magnus
Soft Foot Shuffle
Summer’s Here (with Alan Gevaert)
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You can read this report also on Concert Monkey.