Another year, another NME award show. These have now become a mainstay of the tour scene. Every year a series of bands play a series of shows, headlined by more established acts and take the gigs around the UK. Today’s gig at the Brixton Academy was headlined by the Magic Numbers.
But before I get into the wonderful set that was provided by the Magic Numbers, let me wax lyrical on the support acts. As I’ve been attending these shows over the years, I’ve always found it to be a good way to discover new music that I probably wouldn’t pay to go and see by itself. The first band on the stage were newcomers Morning Runner. From afar, they looked like a bunch of 12 year olds on stage. Their songs are a weird mix of the soaring sound of a coldplayesque song mixed with a garage-punk edge. It’s hard to describe. Their finale was a song which has rightly received considerable Xfm airplay (London’s alternative music radio). They’re definitely a band worth investigating further.
Next up were Swedish band Shout Out Louds. They seemed to grab the interest of the crowd as soon as they walked out on stage. Their songs have been billed as a mix between the Magic Numbers and Arcade Fire. In many respects, this could be a true description, although they lack the shambolic brilliance of the Arcade Fire’s live show. I feel that describing them as art students is better, albeit Swedish art students. No doubt they would be a favourite of Rockbeatstone’s founder, webmaster and editor Daniel (He is also from Sweden). Their songs were intelligently crafted and were a winning mix of pop and rock with an edge.
The Concretes have been widely touted as the next Magic Numbers. They are on the same label as them, but that was as far as I could go with the analogy after seeing them live. Funnily enough they are also Swedish. The band is an eclectic mix on stage, two horns back up the classical guitar/bass/drums/piano formation.
Problems started early as it became apparent the crowd were uninterested. The lead singer even voiced her disgust at this in broken English. This lead the crowd to talk even more. Their performance felt like a comedown after seeing the Shout out Louds. The Concretes have had loads of music media hype surrounding them. This is yet more proof that one’s own ears are a better judge than the thoughts of a trendy magazine, website or radio station (except of course the esteemed Rockbeatstone!). If the Shout out Louds are a mix of Arcade Fire and the Magic Numbers. Then the Concretes are a mix of the Magic Numbers and Velvet Underground (minus the talent). It may have been more enjoyable if I was on smack. But I wasn’t.
Turning now to the main set from the Magic Numbers. This band started out a couple of years ago and built up a massive fan base from scratch by playing live gigs across London. They even turned down initial contract offers to increase their support even more. In many ways they were one of the best kept secrets of the music industry, just waiting to explode. When their album was released last year, it lead to a support act slot for Brian Wilson, massive festival gigs and a huge amount of record sales. Their songs are a mix of the harmonies of the Beach Boys or the Band mixed with the melancholy of Romeo Stoddart’s songs which all seem to have a bitter sweet element to them. This brings about in the listener a feeling of weird elation out of such seeming pain.
On stage have always been all smiles. Their shaggy, down to earth attitude and looks have allowed them to stand out from the crowded music scene, where cool is often all important. One feels that if you went to the pub with them they would be a good laugh and that you’d get on like a house on fire. Magic Numbers gigs are also infectious in bringing out the best of people. You simply cannot walk out of a Magic Numbers gig without a massive smile on your face. Tonight’s gig was no exception.
I have seen the band five times now at various venues in London. Each time I have felt that the gig won’t be as good as the last due to the fact that its in a slightly bigger venue. Today is no exception. But the band do not appear to care for my worries and come out to riotous applause. The band seem to be so excited about playing the gig that they storm through the opening numbers, almost too quickly!
The songs follow and it feels like I am at a gig for a more established band. Everyone seems to know all the words and cheers in all the right places. Musical highlights included a moving ‘I See You, You See Me’ which is their current single. I can only tell you that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, but you won’t be able to understand completely how it felt to be there. ‘Don’t give up the Fight’, ‘Forever Lost’ and ‘Love is a Game’ were all well received by the crowd.
The band also showcased some new material from their upcoming new album. This included a cover of their collaboration with the Chemical Brothers, ‘Close Your Eyes’. These were rightfully respected as the crowd listened intently, probably wishing they knew these songs better.
When the band returned to the stage after their encore, they performed their folky version of Beyonce’s Crazy in Love’. Although I am not usually one for these gimmicky radio-friendly covers, it did work well and added impetus to their finale which was: ‘Mornings Eleven’, a ‘Wheels on Fire’ where the whole crowd sang along and an amazing song entitled ‘the Beard’. This song sounded like a cover but probably wasn’t. An excellent live song, complete with crashing guitar solos and wouldn’t feel out of place at a Creedence gig.
Without a doubt, the Magic Numbers have proved that they are ready for the ‘big-time’. Their live shows are something else. There are not many bands who can make the entire crowd leave with such a huge smile. In an increasingly cynical world, the human race needs music like the Magic Numbers. In this instance one should believe the hype: the Magic Numbers are the real deal.
Magic Numbers setlist:
‘Don’t Give Up The Fight’
‘I See You, You See Me’
‘You Never Had It’
‘Close Your Eyes’
‘Hymn To Her’
‘Love Is A Game’
‘Love Me Like You’
‘Crazy In Love’
‘Wheels On Fire’