The Magic Numbers - Shepherds Bush Empire, London

Saturday, June 25 2005, Glastonbury. The Magic Numbers' debut album has been out for twelve days and they're onstage in a rammed John Peel tent, visibly taken aback as a virtually word-perfect, animated crowd sings along. Singer Romeo Stodart's smile fills his face and all four band members are genuinely stunned at the reception they receive: this, you sense, is one of those nights people will talk about in hushed tones for years afterwards.

Four months, a Mercury nomination and several glowing reviews later, Ealing quartet are on their first sold-out UK tour, playing Shepherd's Bush Empire for the second time in a row. The backdrop is a cartoon silhouette of the two sets of siblings - Romeo and his bass-playing sister Michele, drummer Sean Gannon and his sister Angela (percussion, medodica) - which is surrounded by starry lights as they stride onto the stage. They launch straight into The Mule, a happy-sad breakup song, and when Romeo sings "why is it that you have to turn out all the lights before you hold me?" you just want to throw your arms around him and tell him everything's going to be fine (well, I do, anyway).

A boisterous Long Legs picks up the pace, followed by Don't Give Up The Fight, Forever Lost and a spellbinding rendition of I See You, You See Me, the crowd cheering when Angela sings her part in the duet. Maybe it's because they're two sets of siblings or perhaps it's just a happy coincidence, but The Magic Numbers are incredibly tight live and they have an onstage chemistry that really is quite special. Their album has recently gone platinum, and its finely-crafted, harmonious pop is the sort of stuff you warm to straight away - but live, they're in a different stratosphere altogether. And it's clear that this time, the wide-eyed, can't-believe-we're-here wonder the band showed at Glastonbury doesn't quite remain. They still come across as affable, appreciative types, but this time there's more between-song banter and a definite sense that Romeo is learning to work the crowd.

Mid-way through the set, the band showcases some new material - Goodnight, The More You Never and Gone Are The Days, the track they recorded for the Warchild album. These quieter, lesser-known numbers are marred only by some chattering in the audience, who eventually stop talking and sing along to Love Me Like You, the summery second single which closes the first part of the set.

It's arguably the encore that makes up the most remarkable part of the show. It begins with a rather unusual cover of Beyoncé's Crazy In Love, followed by a rousing Morning's Eleven and then the two best songs of the night - the glorious singalong that Wheels On Fire becomes and the rip-roaring rockabilly stomp of The Beard, which is the most energetic set closer I've seen in quite some time, especially for an as-yet unrecorded song.

The crowd disperses into the wet London night: ears ringing, toes tapping. Their star very much in the ascendant, The Magic Numbers have finished the evening on a high - and, as at Glastonbury, sent their audience home happy. They won't recapture that delighted bewilderment they exuded that night on the John Peel stage in June, but if they can make Londoners smile like this, they've got to be on to a good thing.

Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:28:48

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