The Magic Numbers are great musicians. They're not afraid to let their songs breathe, to leave an occasional silence to let the listener pause and reflect, before they move on to another idea, sometimes at a slightly different tempo. Not one note all night is off-key or not absolutely, spot-on together with the other instruments or vocal parts. Some of their performances are sublime: "Take Me Or Leave Me" and "Boy" both sung by bass player Michele Stodart illustrate that she's every bit as musically talented as brother Romeo, himself extremely adept on guitar, occasional electric piano and lead vocals which in the lower registers remind me of Martin Stephenson.
But one thing nags away all night. This is the first time they've played in an all-seated arena. Romeo mentions this four or five times. Have the Festival Hall management sent them a memo asking them to keep the noise down? A couple of their most up-tempo numbers are tastfully rearranged for string section accompaniment but they never really get going. They wheel out collaborators--the Smoke Fairies, Bernard Butler (for a largely ineffectual guitar contribution to "Love's A Game"), they slot in musical quotes (Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill", Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready") which pretty much work, but it soon becomes apparent that they're trying (maybe too hard) to stop us getting bored because these are all "quiet songs" and this is a seated venue.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the gig. I still put on the CD of their first album as soon as I got home. Romeo explains that choosing a set list is like putting together a list of guests to invite to a party. I'm afraid too many well-behaved grandparents have turned up tonight though and not enough unruly teenagers.
- Some YouTube highlights:
- Hear their cover of Beyonce's "Crazy In Love" (No really)
- See them do an acoustic version of "Undecided" supping beer in a field at Glastonbury (How great is this?)
- Hear them nick stuff from Kate Bush at tonight's gig ("Slow Down")
Also featured: Support act Duffy: "Is she the new Dusty Springfield?" I don't think so, but time will tell...