Arts

Magic Numbers bring the love back to Belfast for 10th anniversary gig

The Magic Numbers are marking 10 years since releasing their acclaimed debut album with a short run of gigs, taking in Belfast tonight. Frontman Romeo Stodart talks to Brian Campbell

The Magic Numbers play Belfast on Friday

TEN years ago, in June 2005, The Magic Numbers released their self-titled debut album and it was hailed as “the sound of the summer”.

The brilliant singles Forever Lost and Love Me Like You were utterly infectious sunshine pop tunes and they both got lots of radio rotation. But now, looking back, lead singer Romeo Stodart has a chuckle about how the album was described at the time.

“It’s mad to think about that album now, because it was kind of defined as 'the sound of the summer’ and this really happy album, but there are five up-tempo songs on there and the rest are like ballads,” he laughs.

The band – Stodart (vocals/guitar), his sister Michele (bass), drummer Sean Gannon and his sister Angela (vocals/keyboards) – are in Belfast tonight to play a special 10th anniversary gig.

One of the best songs was the tear-jerker ballad I See You, You See Me, on which Stodart duets with Angela.

“That’s a special one, so that’s always been in the set and we’ll play that for sure in Belfast. Loads of people have said they’ve used that song for their wedding song first dance and I’m always like, 'Really?’ It has the lines, `I never wanted to love you, but that’s OK / I always knew that you’d leave me anyway’,” he laughs.

When I spoke to Stodart and the band in Dublin on the eve of their album release 10 years ago, he said that, “There’s lots of up-tempo and kind of fun songs and then we’re grateful when we’re trying to be really quiet if the audience are there with us,” so that will apply at the Belfast gig tonight too.

At the time Angela recalled going into a Woolworth’s shop and finding it really strange to see the band’s single there.

And while Woolworth’s branches are no more, The Magic Numbers are still going strong – they’re in the middle of recording their fifth album.

“We put down new stuff about two months ago and then a lot of tours came up – we supported McAlmont on Butler on tour and Michele was doing a solo tour. Hopefully it will be done by the end of January,” Stodart says.

And because of the new material, the band don’t want to overdo the 10th anniversary celebration of the first album. The only anniversary gigs announced were Belfast (following Dublin on Wednesday and Limerick last night), then Manchester and London.

“We kind of overlooked it, to be honest. Our agent said to us, `You know it’s 10 years since the first record? And you know it’s almost the end of the year? Maybe you should go out and do some gigs.’

“So I think we’ll just do these shows. People say we should re-release the album and all that, but we’ve started a new album. So this tour is a nice little thing to do, without spending too much time looking back.

“It was our biggest record, so we didn’t want to completely ignore the 10-year anniversary but we don’t want to milk it too much.”

He says it’s been enjoyable to go back over some of the debut album songs that haven’t been played in a long time and says the band never even played all the tunes when the album first came out.

“On the last few shows on the McAlmont and Butler tour, we played a few songs from the first album that we hadn’t played like Try and This Love. So it’s going to be great to do them all. I think we might play the album backwards – and by that I mean start at the end, not literally play it backwards,” he laughs.

Forever Lost, Love’s a Game, Love Me Like You and Long Legs are big songs in the live show and Stodart says “people go crazy for them”. The band will also play their first single Hymn For Her and songs from their three other albums. And there might be a couple of cover versions too.

“We sometimes do Harvest Moon by Neil Young, because we’re big Neil Young fans,” says Stodart.

And will there be any Christmas covers? “It depends how Christmassy I feel on the night!”

The Magic Numbers became good friends with David Kitt back in the day and they also supported U2 at a number of gigs.

“My first 'live’ experience wasn’t a gig but was watching the Rattle and Hum movie in the cinema when I was a kid growing up in Trinidad,” says Stodart, whose family moved from Trinidad to New York and then London.

“I remember seeing U2 play when we supported them in Poland and everyone had these white flags and they did I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and everyone was singing along and it was so powerful.”

The band have always enjoyed gigging in Ireland.

“It’s always cool. We loved playing gigs at the Mandela Hall in Belfast and at Whelan’s and The Olympia [in Dublin], where we played back in the glory days. And those glory days will be back!”

It was hard at the time to take in how big they were in 2005, Stodart says.

“We had a taste of the craziness, but at the time I was unhappy so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have. I’d come out of a bad relationship and stuff and then your whole world is going a bit crazy.

“But now I’m a dad and I’ve got my own studio and I feel more grounded. Of course I’d love the next album to get the same exposure as the first one, but it’s different times.”

:: The Magic Numbers play The Limelight in Belfast on Friday from 7pm. Tickets £16.

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