The Magic Numbers – The Old Market, Hove – 16th May 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

Before their brand-new record, Outsiders, which we said, “Breathed life into the band and made them not only relevant again, but grounded with an increasing amount of importance”, it had been four years since The Magic Numbers had toured or released an album. On the evidence of the crowd at The Old Market on the day before The Great Escape Festival, it had been a long four years too. TOM was packed-out and the excitement was palpable. Not to fear, though, The Magic Numbers are back and they’re back on form.

It seemed strange not to see one of Brighton’s finest bands, Penelope Isles, on The Great Escape line-up this year. That’s because they’re currently on tour with their heroes and they received a longer set for their hometown show which they duly took advantage of. Seeing the band on a bigger stage just looks right; their sound warrants that atmospheric lighting, that broader, more appealing sound and the beautiful theatre acoustics that it can offer. The likes of ‘Round’ and ‘Cut Your Hair’ sounded fantastic, with their driving drum beats and beautiful harmonies. They’re an incredibly likeable band that deserve to be huge, and they more than likely will be.

We stated in our review of Outsiders that, “This is The Magic Numbers like you’ve never seen them before: leather-clad, rebellious and armed with riffs aplenty, the quartet are rebels with a cause.” Indeed, their live show is different for that reason too. Starting with the opening two songs off Outsiders, ‘Shotgun Wedding’ and ‘Ride Against the Wind’, there’s a difference in the style and the sound of the band instantly. ‘Shotgun Wedding’ got the crowd going instantly with its glam-rock-inspired, punchy Bolan-esque riffs and driving bassline, while ‘Ride Against the Wind’ nods to the likes of Fleetwood Mac with its classic rock tale of a biker gang. People only aware of the older Magic Numbers material might be a little lost, but this feels like a new era for the band and it’s certainly an impressive one.

Another beautiful moment comes from Outsiders’ lead single ‘Sweet Divide’, which includes the help of Lily from Penelope Isles on saxophone. Not only is the song fantastic, featuring the guitar distortion, falsetto vocals and glowering riffs that are actually reminiscent of a certain Penelope Isles themselves, but it’s also fantastic to see a band as big as The Magic Numbers championing a band as much as they have with Penelope Isles. That’s the glorious thing about The Magic Numbers: they just seem to love music. Another fantastic moment comes from a beautiful cover of ‘The Rip’ by Portishead. This representation is still a quiet number, but it slowly builds into a beautiful crashing ballad that swirls around The Old Market’s vast venue.

The most important thing here though is, over a decade into their careers, The Magic Numbers still look like they enjoy playing together. On stage, all those years of musical experience is there to be seen. They’re an excellent foursome, who all play for each other, and who play with assurance, tenacity and expertise. At times they would have lost the casual fan, but if you’re a die hard fan – like many in The Old Market were – this would be one to treasure.

Liam McMillen