The Magic Numbers - Manchester Academy 2

But first a word for unexpectedly sterling support from the previously unappealing Danny and the Champions of the World. You’ve not followed up on acts just because they trade under a ridiculous name before? No? Behave. But here’s reason to judge beyond the cover. My mate, a fan, tells me that, yes, their leader is called Danny and the three piece who play tonight are missing a couple of Champions of the World. No matter. They fill the room with just acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo. And singing that tickles the empty portion of your soul. Their MO is 'Down From the Mountain' filtered through a seam of The Go Betweens. The songs seem to be full of words, rangy and almost overpowering with it. I pick up on repeated references to rivers, the land and journeying (of, I’m guessing, not just the literal kind.) Danny writes the songs, offers engaging banter between them and cohorts Trevor and Hannah lend steely support. They play seven or eight songs and every damn one registers. Towards the end, they take it down a gear and Danny slips into Springsteen’s 'Thunder Road': “The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves …” I rarely indulge the foolhardy taking on Bruce these days. What’s the point, you know? It’s just too much weight and so few have the authority, can justify such audacity. This lot borrow from on high without even questioning whether they should. They make hundreds of new friends and race to the very top of my ‘must make amends’ list.

Remember The Magic Numbers ? Actually, yes. A packed hall confirms that they retain the fanbase that flipped them to indie pop stardom five or six years ago before second album Those the Brokes provoked an outbreak of mass indifference. Third time lucky, new album The Runaway abandoning some of the previous template in favour of soaring strings and hush over rush. That said, all that gets kicked out the window onstage. Tonight they opt for muscle over symphonics and play minus the string set that has backed them throughout the year. If the postponing of the this tour from the summer was to enable them to get match fit, I say good call. If it was for reasons altogether more logistical and boardroomy, I offer my backside because no one should have to wait to see a band this capable rejuvenated and off the leash. The set is spot on, old hits punctuating the new album in its near entirety. ‘Love Me Like You’ and 'Forever Lost' are greeted with fervour. (Sadly, the absence of album high spot ‘Only Seventeen’ is criminal. And no ‘Love’s a Game’, a veritable hanging offence. Next time, I say.) The new stuff doesn’t lose its elegance; album opener ‘The Pulse’, and the after hours groove of Michelle’s ‘Why Did You Call Tonight?’ are mesmering and full. If ‘A Start With No Ending’ comes across and lumpen where it should be fleet of foot, ‘Once I Had’ sends its Byrds-ian harmonics skyward.

Romeo, the smile never off his face, orchestrates crowd singalongs and metal horn proffering, and offers wry monologues on the long dark night of the tourbus. After encouragement he plays us his band name song, which is sharper than you might expect. Love the line: “Love, it bites everything but the girl …” As you might hope, the chemistry between the paired siblings shines bright. There are, as always, cheers after Angela’s bit in ‘See You, See Me’. They encore with a rampant ‘This Is a Song’ , ‘Morning’s Eleven’ and galvanise the locals with a well judged take on Ian Brown’s ‘The Fear’. Ringing ears attest to just how much muscle there is in the Magic Numbers live show and ringing applause makes clear just how much love for them remains. Deservedly so.

Last updated: 18/04/2018 14:26:30

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