Aside from his day job in Magnum, Bob Catley has carved out an impressive solo career over the past decade that now stretches to six albums and has seen him work with songwriters including Gary Hughes from Ten and latterly Magnus Karlsson who wrote all of Bob's most recent release via Frontiers, Immortal. The current run of dates finds Bob in the acoustic setting joined by guitarist Vinnie Burns of Dare and Ten and it makes for an intimate atmosphere that is the probably the closet you can get to having Bob Catley perform in your living room.
Starting the evening were Paul Uttley and Dave Thompson from Lost Weekend and who themselves wrote the majority of Bob's 2006 album Spirit of Man. With just guitar and voice at your disposal it is never easy to keep an audience engaged for any great length of time but the forty five minutes or so passes by very quickly as Uttley and Thompson generate considerable enthusiasm. A cover version of Bad Company's "Feel Like Makin Love" is a good move as it breaks up the set for those unfamiliar with the bands own work. They showcase three numbers from new release Fear and Innocence, namely "Father and Son", "Backstreet Livin" and "Stone Hearted Woman", all of which suggest the album is worthy of further investigation.
Wolverhampton is as near as it gets to home territory for Bob Catley and a few months from now Magnum will be packing out the adjacent hall on the tour in support of Into The Valley of The Moonking. But this evening is about Bob's career outside of Magnum and over the course of ninety minutes he and Burns dig deep into his solo back catalogue to revisit songs such as "The Pain", "Scream" and the Celtic-flavoured "My America". "Return of the Mountain King", "Stormcrow and Pilgrim" and "The Fellowship", a trio of songs from the Lord of The Rings inspired Middle Earth, work particularly well in the acoustic setting and are effectively played together mid-way through the set. Always an engaging frontman, Bob seems suitably at ease here and Vinnie Burns is an accomplished player comfortably capable of holding down the musical side of things. The pair even add in a version of Dare's "Abandon" which is something of a welcome addition and Dare themselves will make a live return later this year. Immortal is an album that has a foothold firmly in the European melodic / power metal scene and the stripped down "We Are Immortal" and "Haunted" are in complete contrast to their bombastic studio counterparts. For evidence of Bob's influence on today's scene then his collaborations with Tobias Sammet and Arjen Lucassen are particularly notable and the set closes with Avantasia's "Sign of the Cross" before curfew approaches and "Fear of the Dark" from debut album The Tower ends the evening. If you have never delved into Bob Catley's solo career then you have missed a real treat and with a new album already in the planning stages we can look forward to more of these kind of shows from Bob and Vinnie in the future.
Thanks to Nic Dawson for allowing the use of her great photographs and to Annie Minion for the review opportunity.