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Ipso Facto
The Forum, London
Friday February 13 2009

Old bands never split up, they just take extended holidays. That's the way it seems these days, with just about every band that ever existed coming back for an encore - in some cases many years after the end of the main performance, and notwithstanding assorted line-up changes or even deaths that might have taken place in the meantime.

That's certainly the way it is with Magazine. After all, this band didn't even make it as far as the mid-80s, first time round - the big split happened in 1983. Twenty-six years on, Magazine's holiday has lasted longer than most. But now, they're back.

Ipso FactoAlthough the Magazine catalogue has been assiduously re-released over the years (counting the live album, there are now more Magazine compilations available than the band's original studio albums) there seems to be no particular reason for the band to stage a comeback at this particular moment.

But it's not like I'm complaining, you understand. Because this is Magazine - post-punk pioneers, formed in 1978 when vocalist and songwriter Howard Devoto left the Buzzcocks, assembled a new band, and pointed himself in the direction of cerebral art-rock - itself a bold move at a time when most of his musical contemporaries were still at the stage of safety pins and spitting.

And, of course, Magazine proved themselves to be one of the great bands of their era - a taut, dynamic, ever-shifting creative force that played a large part in defining the amorphous territory of post-punk. There might be no particular reason for the band to reform right now, but it's good to have 'em back.

So, if Magazine are the grandfathers of cool, it'll take a band with a certain winning way with effortless frostiness to match them in this department. And here is that very band: Ipso Facto, looking studiously unimpressed with the big stage and bigger auditorium of the Forum - you'd think they played gigs of this scale all the time. They're worthy foils for the headliners. Their economical, not-a-note-wasted pop seems to have been dragged backwards through the garage punk of the sixties, sundry new wave nights at CBGB in the seventies, and somehow emerged without a hair out of place in the twenty-first century. A neat trick if you can pull it off, and Ipso Facto manage it with style.

Magazine have emerged into the twenty-first century wearing the intervening years rather well. Howard Devoto is an incongrous figure, centre stage - in his plus-fours and pink jacket he's a cheery, if somewhat otherworldly, holiday camp helper, about to compere the Tintin lookalike competition. He's flanked by bassist Barry Adamson, exuding laid-back cool in a neat-o waistcoat and topper combo. Guitar is in the care of Noko, Devoto's former collaborator in the post-Magazine band Luxuria. Although Noko is the fourth guitarist Magazine have had over the years, I suspect most people will be comparing his efforts tonight with the band's original six-string mangler, the late and splendid John McGeoch. It was McGeoch who played a key role in the original Magazine sound, and not incidentally Magazineshowed that there was more to being a guitar hero than conventional rock-geezer freaking. Daunting shoes to step into, but Noko, nonchalant and impassive throughout, even as he unleashes distinctly McGeoch-ish runs, takes it in his stride.

And the show is, of course, quite magnificent. Naturally, Magazine could hardly pull anything less than magnificence out of the hat, because allowing the big comeback to become a big flop was never an option. But the band delivers the goods with all the original cold fire sparking and crackling as if the flame had never wavered.

The shuddering, keening textures of Dave Foremula's keyboards roll out the carpet upon which drummer John Doyle and Barry Adamson take the rhythms for a stomp; Noko lays sheets of guitar like perspex over the top. And Howard Devoto, the unlikely shaman in cut-off strides, manages to be hypnotic and humourous at the same time, hand-jiving his way through the songs as if each gesture defines a fragment of the future.

The set is mainly drawn from Magazine's earlier albums - the band's final release, Magic, Murder And The Weather gets short shrift, with only 'This Poison' making it into the set. In a way, that's a disappointment, because although conventional wisdom always has it that Magazine's previous albums were the real classics, I still carry a torch for that last one.

But 'A Song From Under The Floorboards', the anthem-to-top-all-anthems from The Correct Use Of Soap, is a thing of baleful, coruscating power, while the whimsical, regretful, ballad 'You Never Knew Me' generates such passion from the diehard Magazine heads down the front that the security blokes have to admonish one over-enthusiastic fan whose boisterous singalong, directly in front of Devoto himself, seems downright threatening. And this, in a ballad! If anyone required proof of the power packed into Magazine's songs, there we have it.

MagazineDevoto presides, schoolmasterish, behind a lectern for the odd - and, I always think, rather inconclusive - spoken-word piece 'The Book', but for the most part the Magazine machine just keeps on blasting. 'Twenty Years Ago' segues intp 'Definitive Gaze', just like it does on the live album, Play; 'Rhythm Of Cruelty' is a ripped-up dash.

Rosalie Cunningham and Samantha Valentine of Ipso Facto join Magazine for backing vocals - a neat connection between the then and the now, which with any luck will prod tonight's predominantly old-skool audience in the direction of current music. But this crowd wants the old stuff, and gets it. There's a surge to the finish, with 'Thank You (Falletin me be mice elf agin)' allowing Barry Adamson to get his fluid funk groove on, and, finally, 'I Love You, You Big Dummy' bringing things to a manic conclusion, all squalls of keyboards and that gritty, roll-it-all-forward bassline that seems like it's never going to stop...until it stops.

Well, that was a welcome experience. The band's twenty-six year holiday seems to have done them good. As post-punk continues to bring its influence to bear on the bands of today, Magazine saunter out of the past, and without even breaking sweat, show 'em exactly how to nail this stuff to the wall. The godfathers are still cool.



Essential links:

Magazine: Website | MySpace

Ipso Facto: MySpace

For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.



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