12 October 2010

The Magic Numbers

Shepherd’s Bush Empire

11 October 2010

[Pic: MagicNumbers.net]

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I’ve seen the Magic Numbers perform twice before.  The first time, when they were new to me, was at the Big Day Out on an amazing summer’s day in Auckland in January 2006.  They charmed the crowd with their exuberant brand of optimistic, tuneful pop and once I’d purchased their debut album the band soon became a firm favourite of mine.  Then in June 2007 I saw them support Crowded House at the Indigo2, after which I labelled them as ‘one of this decade’s most beguiling and appealing bands’, which I still believe is a fair description.

When I heard the Magic Numbers were touring in support of their third album, The Runaway, I quickly booked my ticket.  It turned out that the June tour was postponed until October, so I had a long wait for the performance.  But eventually the appointed day rolled around and I made my way to Shepherd’s Bush.

Sure enough, the third time around the Magic Numbers retain all of their charms in the live performance stakes.  If anything, the strength of their stage show is a testament to the importance and value of seeing a band in person rather than listening at home.  The excitement generated by a chiming guitar, booming bass and expertly woven harmonies just cannot be replicated by stereo equipment, and the palpable enjoyment that these two sets of siblings communicate to the crowd is a real asset.

Seeing them for a third time I was particularly impressed with Michele Stodart’s bass-playing, and her close teamwork with drummer Sean Gannon.  Maybe it was because I was so close to the stage (less than 10 metres away), but the bass was possibly the loudest I’ve heard in a conventional pop band, offering a real sense of excitement during the up-tempo songs.  And she seems to be having a great time throughout the gig too, grinning at particularly choice notes or crowd reactions. 

The new material was interesting and will grow on me once I’ve listened to the album.  The standout track Hurt So Good offers a Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’-style ambience with the swooning harmonies that are the Magic Numbers’ hallmark, and the romanticism of Start With No Ending also fits the sensitive and tuneful mould.  Some of the mid-tempo numbers passed me by a little, seeming a tad samey, but that’s probably just my personal taste and I’ll look forward to hearing the studio versions. 

I recommend you pop along to the band’s website and download the free 6-track EP, Live at Wilton’s Music Hall, if you’re interested in investigating the new material.

Ultimately it was the classic core of the first Magic Numbers album that formed the spine of the show, with the notable addition of the very fine This Is A Song from 2006’s Those The Brokes.  The rousing finale, in which talented support band Danny & the Champions of the World were invited onstage to duet on a cover of Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark, followed by a gleeful rush through Morning’s Eleven, sent the crowd home with smiles on their faces and renewed admiration for the all-around talents and good-natured charm of the Magic Numbers. 

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