Having been acclaimed as the band of the summer, The Magic Numbers are now staking a claim to being the band of the winter. Outside, New York is gearing up for Christmas – every taxi you climb into has carols playing and it’s still only November. Inside, the atmosphere is equally festive. The Magic Numbers have just finished a tour supporting Bright Eyes and loads of Michele and Romeo Stodart’s relatives are here (the family lived in New York in Romeo’s teens). The Magic Numbers aren’t well known in America, but from the minute they walk onstage and launch into ‘Long Legs’, their classic, creamy pop leaves the Bowery loved-up and spellbound.
What makes it even more charming is that the band are still visibly thrilled by the joyful effect they’re having. Romeo grins so hard his eyes disappear when the audience clap along as one to ‘Forever Lost’, cheer the Numbers’ great cover of Beyoncé’s ‘Crazy In Love’ (as soft and intimate as hers was big and bombastic) or fall silent during ‘I See You, You See Me’. Michele tosses her hair and throws shapes with her bass, Angela Gannon turns her hand to melodica and xylophone when she’s not singing and drummer Sean keeps it all together. The band’s musical togetherness is startling, as technically perfect as a studio recording but with a soul that only reveals itself onstage.
And then there are the songs. Originally easy for the cynical to dismiss as twee, over the year they’ve grown into anthems. ‘Love’s A Game’ now sounds like the Stax classic Noel Gallagher recently acclaimed it as, and ‘Don’t Give Up The Fight’ manages to carry off wide-eyed, ’70s-tinged pop where Hal and The Thrills somehow misfired. The reason why is somewhere in the total conviction all four Magic Numbers bring to the band, their bond as two sets of siblings, and crucially the fact that they have a healthy respect for the classics (like favourites Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson and Janis Joplin) without feeling the need to replicate them. There’s that band spirit too. For people whose gentle music and soft demeanour might have suggested they’d welcome nothing more after a gig than a nice mug of Horlicks, The Magic Numbers have an impressive capacity for partying. With them, however, it doesn’t seem like rock-pig indulgence, more a desire to get the most out of every moment.
The Bowery Ballroom sees them communicating this spirit with total directness, without relying on ear-splitting dynamics or rock’n’roll clichés. (It’s also great to see a band with two women in it – why is this still so rare in rock music as we approach 2006?) Tonight, The Magic Numbers left NYC feeling good, as warm and all-enveloping as a hug.