The Magic Numbers Review
by Ollie Hopewell

Review for Ay Up Duck Radio’s Sugarmill Show

A feature-length night of cool and jazzy expression came to The Sugarmill on Saturday 16th October, with artists celebrated across the nation meeting for what was to become the ultimate jam sesh.


Ren Harvieu

From humble beginnings at a working men’s club in Salford to releasing her second album, Revel in the Drama, in April of 2020, Ren Harvieu has made a name for herself as one of the most atmospheric and mesmerising artists on the scene.

Taking to the stage in a combo of a black blazer and sparkly pink cowboy hat it was immediately obvious that I would absolutely love everything about Ren Harvieu; her dark and mysterious lyrics truly haunt over you as a beautiful serenade sends you to a place of love and comfort while the backing music totally compliments the mood, elevating Harvieu’s performance to the heavens and back.

From a 60’s inspired Western sound to an ominous and modern take on a cabaret-opera fusion, there is little Harvieu cannot perfect; the staggering range and ease in which she floats through her set is genuinely amazing, a feat only heightened by her near-telepathic relationship with her fellow artists on stage. Of the six incredible musicians on stage, Harvieu was joined by Michele and Romeo Stoddart of the headliners The Magic Numbers on bass and lead guitar respectively, a pair with whom Harvieu has formed an inseparable and clairvoyant bond.

The as-yet unnamed trio of Felix Holt, Laura Tenschert, and Robert Chaney must not go unmentioned for their spectacular performance either; their role as incredible free flowing artists only added to the night as they seamlessly rotated round the stage, donning several different instruments each across the set and not missing a single note all the while. This experience was truly mesmerising.

Harvieu draws comparison to contemporaries Elbow in the themes and northern spirit of her work, Mattiel and Florence and the Machine for the staggering sound and range of her voice, and Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell for her presence and cool approach to leading on stage, a coolness only amplified by her merchandise including Ren Harvieu branded tea towels. Rock and Roll eat your heart out.

Salford’s ethereal cowboy radiated pure power and energy throughout the night, especially in tracks Teenage Mascara, Yes Please, and the epic finale of Curves & Swerves, a ballad which feels like slow dancing in the kitchen and falling in love for the first time in its beautiful complexity, the track ending on a single acapella note which made me hold my breath and tear up before grinning ear-to-ear at what I was hearing.

Though Harvieu may have opened with a shy remark of “I know no of you have heard of me before”, I will certainly never forget the amazing performance of Ren Harvieu and the incredible musicians by her side. It truly was a beautiful thing.

The Magic Numbers

Headlining a packed out Sugarmill were The Magic Numbers, a band renowned for their softly spoken and jazz-fused performances which blur the genre line to create a powerful live session with something for just about everyone in attendance. The four-piece came to the Potteries on the final night of a vast tour which celebrated the 15th anniversary of their double platinum self-titled album The Magic Numbers.

Taking to the stage to a dual serenade of Pure Imagination from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and the deafening cheers, applause, and whistles from the crowd, the London band opened the night with the upbeat and electro-country-tinged Mornings Eleven before thanking and welcoming everyone to their set.

All in attendance felt immediately at ease in the safe and calm hands of the band’s frontman Romeo Stoddart who proceeded to tell the audience how important this tour was to the band and how grateful they were for the emotional journey they’ve been on, touching on the highs of fame and lows of separation during the pandemic.

Singing back from the very first song, the crowd was treated to Forever Lost, The Mule, and Long Legs as the ensemble swaggered and swayed about the stage, delivering sun-tinged guitars and stable percussive riffs reminiscent of a locomotive chugging along at a steady pace.

The unique quartet of two sets of siblings provided us with foot tapping rhythms all night long, with the world’s most smiley frontman Romeo Stoddart laying down upbeat riffs over Michele Stoddart’s funky basslines which ricocheted round your chest. Sean Gannon provided a cool yet lively performance on percussion as Angela Gannon seemingly filled in everywhere else, displaying her talent on keys, melody, percussion, and more across the set.

The Trinidad-born frontman pondered on his life in between tracks, from anecdotes of he and his sister, Michele, “cooking” up songs in their parent’s front room soundproofed with egg boxes to his genuine excitement at iconic guitarist Slash being born in Stoke-on-Trent, exclaiming, “This is where Slash was born, how cool is that!?”.

Slash acted as an inspiration for Romeo Stoddart while the band’s overall sound has sought inspiration from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, The Beach Boys, and REM while The Magic Numbers have since gone on to inspire artists such as Vampire Weekend, Little Comets, and Black Kids. The London band came into the limelight as the British music scene was thriving, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with contemporaries Razorlight, The Coral, and The Zutons, and Hard-fi.

A nice juxtaposition between Love Me Like You, an upbeat track similar to BSÍ’s Vesturbæjar Beach which slowly turned the tone down, and Which Way to Happy, a bluesy slow-dancing classic which married well with changing the tone and tempo of the set for I See You, You See Me, Don’t Give Up the Fight, and This Love, the latter being a beautifully soft song with touches of glockenspiel drawing thoughts to tender youth.

There were moments where you could’ve heard a pin drop throughout the night, everyone mesmerised by the band’s diversity of sound and showcase of their abilities, crossing from swing, jazz, country, soul, blues, and everything in between. For me, the most impressive feat of the night was the whole band opening Try in an acapella harmonisation which came without a countdown, an indication of just how well the band know each other, their chemistry second no none.

The Magic Numbers ended the intimate gig with Hymn for Her, inspiring a sense of child-like wonder across the crowd before returning to the crowd for the most unique encore I have ever witnessed; This Is a Song and Sweet Divide merged into a lively orchestra of sound, all of which came as a spontaneous 17-minute jam session without error or rehearsal as Felix Holt and Robert Chaney returned to the stage with saxophones in hand to deliver vibes of pure jazz in an expression of total freedom. It was a moment I’ll never forget as musicians displayed their genuine love and passion for their art, all of which was wrapped up with thunderous applause and smiles all round while The Magic Numbers bowed centre stage.

To close, I will quote the last thing Romeo Stoddart said on stage; “We’ve had an amazing night, we’ll see you again!”. I, for one, will certainly be there for this glorious return. Until then, we’ll wait with immense anticipation for the next project from this glorious group.


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© Ollie Hopewell 2022
Contact: SugarmillShow@gmail.com







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