The Magic Numbers: Buffalo Bar, London; Thursday September 28

The bearded ones prove that repeating an old trick can still be magic

There’s always been a thing about size with The Magic Numbers. They sold out London’s near-2,000-capacity Kentish Town Forum before they’d even got round to releasing their debut album. When the hugely loveable eponymous effort did surface, it shifted piles, was nominated for a Nationwide Mercury Prize and thrust them into the limelight in a big way.

Then, of course, there was the unfortunate Richard Bacon incident (Bacongate?), when the funny-as-cancer Top Of The Pops presenter poked fun at their collective weight and the band stormed off without recording their scheduled performance.

But tonight, in a tiny venue filled to the brim with rabid fans (including the band’s parents) all savouring the chance to get up close and personal with Britain’s favourite breezy songwriters, neither teasing nor tantrums are on the bill. The four-piece have decided to road test new tracks from their briskly recorded new album, ‘Those The Brokes’ – a record bound to be enormous enough to make their enemies (Bacon, we’re looking at you) shrink with fear.

So the new stuff? Well, it’s a bit like the old stuff. New single ‘Take A Chance’ and LP opener ‘This Is A Song’ rattle along with the same momentum as their big hits ‘Forever Lost’ and ‘Love Me Like You’ (which, to fans’ delight are both aired tonight). Curiously, it’s the more downbeat of the new material which makes the most immediate impression. ‘Most Of The Time’ is tender and graceful, while ‘Slow Down’ might well be their best song to date – a wistful heartbreaker which climaxes in a stunning three-part vocal showcase of the harmonious skill of frontman Romeo, Michele and Angela. It’s serene moments like this that prove the biggest thing about The Magic Numbers will always be the size of their hearts.

Alan Woodhouse

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