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Live Review
The Magic Numbers, Dry The River
Dry The River look like any other alt-country-rock-folk band: there's a checked shirt, a few beards, and a T-shirt boldly displaying the word 'NASHVILLE' amongst their number. Each song starts delicately, with fingerpicked acoustic guitar and wistful vocals. Wistfulness turns to passion with the addition of electric guitar and drums, while sparing violin accompaniment brings a sweetness to the melodies, and by the third song the audience have moved en masse toward the stage.

The band seem to gain confidence and their songs become more complex, involving close Appalachian-sounding harmonies not unlike those of fellow bluegrass beards, Fleet Foxes, but with just enough rock edge to be able to envisage them in a few years' time, leading a stadium singalong. It's unclear if anything makes them different from the Mumford and Sons-alikes around, but if they do it well - which they do - room should exist for both.

The crowd begin whooping and hollering as soon as The Magic Numbers appear onstage, before a single note has been played. The band begin introspectively with 'The Pulse', playing quietly as if to each other, building slowly. Great care is taken with the dynamics of each song, pulling back to almost silence and then grabbing the audience with an "Are we smiling tonight?" that is rapturously received. They hit their stride with 'Take A Chance', their songs sounding much more beefy onstage than they do on recordings.

Live, it's all very Fleetwood Mac, with dreamy guitars, male/female vocals, and a real sense of showmanship that makes Romeo Stodart the best unlikely frontman since Guy Garvey of Elbow. There's definitely no shying away from the audience, with singing along being encouraged throughout and definitely participated in, the acapella beginning of �Forever Lost' proving that this is an audience that really does know all the words. Some of the stage banter is a bit superfluous and spoils the flow between songs, a fully up-for-it audience is stopped in their tracks by a long-winded story about glockenspiels, for example. But this is tolerated, a necessary evil while the band retune between songs.

It really is a party atmosphere though, with each song offering something new but almost always giving an opportunity to dance. An unexpected cover of The Cure's �A Forest' beautifully interwoven with 'Daniel' by Bat For Lashes, is something quite special and showcases just how darkly engaging they can be, especially as the band contain one of  the most alluring and enigmatic female bassists this side of the 1980s.

As Romeo says "it's gonna feel like Christmas in the room" and, for a while, it does.

Elizabeth McGeown

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Gig Details
Venue: Spring & Airbrake
Location: Belfast
Date: 9/12/2010

Related Links
+ The Magic Numbers
+ Dry The River