Magenta, – Seven Launch Party, Cross Keys Hotel, Wales, 6th March 2004
Set list – Gluttony/Envy/Pride/Broken/Children Of The Sun.
This was certainly a first for me, to be invited to an album launch party. Indeed I considered it something of an honour and a privilege to be invited by the band.
The venue was the Cross Keys Hotel in Llantrisant, just outside Cardiff in South Wales. Very easy to get to, about ten minutes from the M4 motorway.
First, a mention for the venue the Cross Keys. I have to say that this was probably more comfortable than a lot of large hotels I have stayed in. The owners Steve and Kim really made you feel welcome, and had obviously put in a lot of hard work and effort to colour the hotel a distinct shade of Magenta – posters, balloons, flyers and leaflets adorned every nook and cranny of the main bar.
When we arrived in the room, we were treated to handfuls of goodies, such as free bottles of beer, chocolates, promo CD’s, a laminated “access all areas” name badge (Yeeeesssssss! Always wanted one of them.), and a very nice welcoming card from Chris Jones and his good lady wife Sheila. Chris is a long time friend of the band, and indeed is often referred to as their official No 1 fan. More about Chris’ contributions to the event later.
After getting ourselves settled in, myself and my good lady Karen decided to have a short nap in the afternoon, but were soon woken up by the sweet sound of the band rehearsing – our room was actually only a few feet away from the main function room. (These sorts of noisy neighbours I could certainly live with!) This was indeed a bit of a bonus, as we were able to watch the band perform a few numbers before the main event. And they sounded spot on.
After a quick bite to eat and a shower, we changed into our something a little more comfortable, and soon it was time to go downstairs ready for the evening’s entertainment. The plan was for the band to play a 1-hour set, and to then retire to the main bar where the Seven album would be played and the band members would meet and greet the invited guests.
The actual gig was in a medium sized function room, although everyone (100 or so guests) managed to squeeze in somehow. Band area seemed actually quite large, and it was good to see keyboard player Rob Reed with three keyboards this time. A major bonus was a plasma screen on the back wall which displayed specially prepared images and text designed to illustrate the various deadly sins. In fact, this was used for an overture before the band came on, set to a specially prepared piece of suitably grandiose organ music, showing various images of the band over the last couple of years. This was all put together by Chris Jones, and is indicative of Chris’ level of commitment to the band. In the confined of the darkened room, this actually proved quite effective and very impressive, as during the bands performance both images and text referring to the seven deadly sins showed on the screen behind them.
There was a very relaxed, friendly atmosphere here tonight, the band had the advantage of knowing most of the audience – and this loosened them up and really helped their performance. I keep saying they get better every time I see them, but it’s true. Gone completely are the occasional rough edges, missed cues and slight uncertainty that is only to be expected from a new band that have not had the chance to play that many live gigs as yet. But to see how far they have come after only ten gigs in total is quite incredible.
First track was the first track from Seven, Gluttony. Already something of a live fave, as it has been played at the last three or four gigs. Played to perfection, and not suffering in the slightest from missing the multi-tracked vocals of the original, which I always feel forces musicians to come up with inventive ways of adapting the songs for a live environment, and Magenta are particularly good at this. In fact, ‘live’, the songs have more energy and vibrancy to them, and with occasionally a rockier edge. This was perfectly illustrated by guitarist Chris Fry dropping to his knees in true guitar hero style when playing the slide guitar solo at the end.
Envy was next, a slightly more sedate affair, but no less impressive. The quieter sections of this piece seemed to go over very well in this very intimate venue. Shame about some of the talkers in the audience, though.
Broken, the band’s new single was played next. I have not really had time to familiarise myself with this one yet, but it came across extremely well live, with a very catchy and memorable chorus. Short, punchy and energetic, just what a single should be.
Pride is yet another big favourite of mine from the new album, and this version does not disappoint. A stunning vocal performance from Christina, with a wonderful, lightning fast guitar/keyboard duel between Chris Fry and Rob Reed. As remarked upon earlier, it was particularly good to see Rob with a couple of extra synths this time, which gave him the ability to add a lot of layers and textures to a lot of the songs, and also pull off some great solo’s.
Last song was Children Of The Sun, the opening track from Revolutions. A great live favourite, with its Jethro Tull-ish flavour, alternating between delicate vocal passages and all-out instrumental workouts. To say that Chris Fry and Rob Reed handle the complex guitar and keyboard sections with consummate ease is somewhat superfluous, but mention must also be made of the incredible rhythm section of Matthew “Metal Matty” Cohen on bass, Martin Rosser on lead and rhythm guitars, and new drummer Allan Mason-Jones - one hell of a back line. I just loved that “On our way home” line near the end from Rob, with Christina joining in with “Sunshine saviour” – must be one of the most perfect endings to a song ever.
And that was it, a short but perfect and perfectly played one hour set. Of course I wanted to hear more, as did everyone else. But this was a launch party, and there was other business to attend to.
To round off the proceedings there were some thank you’s and well deserved presentations to members of the band from Dave Robinson of F2 Records to Steve and Kim the owners of the Cross Keys, for their contributions not just to the evening in question, but for their continued support and commitment to the band. It was a particularly nice touch also to see bouquets of flowers presented to both lead singer Christina, and Kim of the Cross Keys hotel.
A special presentation was in order also for Steve Reed, brother of keyboard player Rob Reed. Steve writes nearly all of the lyrics for the albums, and comes up with the concepts and stories too.
After wiping the tears from our eyes, all that was left now was to retire to the bar to listen to the new album, drink a few lemonades and mingle. And that’s exactly what we did, possibly going a little overboard with the lemonades, judging by the state of my head next morning. Perhaps it was possibly the mixture of Cider, lager and free champagne rather than the lemonade that did it.
Next morning it was up early(ish), a chance to take advantage of the hotel’s wonderful full English fried breakfast, said our goodbyes to the guys in the band, and off back to London.
An extremely enjoyable weekend, and an experience I will not forget. In fact, this has now psyched me up for the next big gig in Cardiff on 23rd April. The thought of seeing the band at a bigger venue performing a full set with more songs from the new album is just too good an opportunity to miss.
And for those of you who may not be able to make the Cardiff gig, there is another one the next day 24th April at the Herringthorpe Leisure Centre in Rotherham.
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