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The Magic Numbers - London Hammersmith Apollo 18/11/06

The Hammersmith Apollo is the biggest gig the Magic Numbers have ever played and tonight they look like a bunch of excited puppies bounding around the stage clearly loving the jubilant reaction of the capacity crowd.

To celebrate this milestone they have invited along Robert Kirby (The genius arranger responsible for the strings on Nick Drakes first two albums) and a string octet, both of whom play on their recently released second album.

I’ve been lucky enough to see The Numbers three times with the first being a Camden pub gig in early 2005 while they were still just another band playing Camden toilet circuit gigs. Even then it was obvious that they were something special, by the quality of their songs and their infectious sunny harmonies, so what has changed in 18 months? (other than the size of the venue and the Mercury nomination)

As you might expect the songs are tighter and the band have gained confidence and stage presence, but the biggest revelation is Michelle. She has clearly grown into the role of rock bass player strutting around the stage like Gene Simmons and stomping to the music whilst throwing a series of rock shapes. It’s surprising and heartening stuff coming from a 20 year old girl who is probably most famous to the general public for being part of the band that walked off Top Of The Pops after insensitive remarks were made about the bands weight by Richard Bacon.

The reason for the tour is the new album (I haven’t heard it yet, but as soon as I have a review will be forthcoming) and the gig is a mixture of old and new with the old favorites unsurprisingly sounding tighter and ushering the strongest response from the audience. The highpoint of the gig is undoubtedly Angela and Romeo’s duet on “I See You, You See Me” with every line from Angela provoking yells and whoops from the audience. One of the great strengths of the band is the quality of the three voices and wisely both girls get a turn on lead vocals with songs from the new album. Surprisingly it is Michelle rather than Angela whos vocal turn is most convincing taking centre stage and swapping bass for guitar with Romeo. Whilst Angela has arguably the finest voice in the group her turn is less engaging as she stands off to the side and seems too nervous to cope with being the main focus of the audience.

It remains to be seen if the new album will be as big a hit as its predecessor, but if the reactions of this crowd are anything to go by then they can count on a devoted live following for some time to come.

Published 19 Nov 2006

Engineer & Musician
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