WORDS JANET HARDING / IMAGES WARREN MILLAR
It’s another event tonight at the Warrington Irish club; I genuinely look forward to these gigs, bringing huge and established musicians, legends even, of the industry into a small and intimate setting. Stripped back acoustic sets – we really get a chance to see these performers at their most natural and in a way that’s not always possible in bigger venues. Tonight’s performance promises to be very special – Romeo, front man of the Magic Numbers, and support provided by a local lass, Jessica Luise (hailing from nearby Newton- le-Willows). Laid out with round tables with seating around them surrounding the dance floor, it’s a lovely informal feel, and works well with this type of gig. Drinks prices are super reasonable (I mean £2.50 for a pink gin and lemonade!!!). Facilities are great, there is a sizeable and lovely beer garden with smoking area, and best of all we have air con…a welcome relief in today’s soaring temperatures! Perfect.
Special Guest – Jessica Luise
I’ve known Jess for a good few years now and from seeing her for the first time I was blown away. I’ve seen her with her full band, as a 2 piece and as a solo acoustic, like tonight. She honestly excels at all 3. With an indie folk, verging on dream pop style, it’s a set full of her own originals tonight. She is very natural on stage with immense presence and is instantly likeable, giggling and talking about her excitement to play before Romeo tonight, and explaining song themes, whilst discussing the array of instruments on stage. The crowd love her already. There’s such a warm (and well deserved) reception for our powerhouse songstress as she passionately strums her acoustic guitar – shimmering, high vibrational songs that take our breath away. The vocal is STUNNING, easily managing to shift between tones, with an epic range from breathy and light to soaring, loud and far reaching. Often with a slight grate, then higher notes…bright in its sound, the vocal is pure joy to listen to. We literally are hanging on her every word. Several times during this set I have goose pimples.
The appreciative crowd have embraced this set wholly – shouts for more, whooping and rapturous applause follow each and every song, and it’s obvious to see this means the world to Jessica. An honest, adorable and varied set – from the Smiths-like sounding ‘TV Mister’, inspired by Joe McGann in ‘Withnail and I’, the iridescent, summery vibes of ‘Middle of June’, the soulful sorrows of ‘Nice Try’ and the uplifting dream feels of ‘A.M.’ An absolutely beautiful set from start to finish, honestly, we could listen to this all night. I urge any live music fans to go see Jessica Luise, a truly special vocal and real talent for song writing.
1/ Nice try
2/ Middle of June
3/ Three steps forward
4/ Honey Kisses
5/ Television Mister
Romeo – Headline
Ren Harvieu – Vocals, flute and percussion
Laura Tenschert – Vocals, musical saw, glockenspiel, omnichord
Felix Holt – Saxophone, Wurlitzer keyboard
Robert Chaney – Bass guitar
Romeo Stodart – Vocals, guitar
I must admit I’ve been looking forward to this one and the huge collection of instruments on stage has got me dying to see this set and what’s done with them…particularly the saw (yes a saw, as available from diy stores). My mind is boggling as to how this might be played! Our headline takes the stage joined by 4 musicians/friends and the applause goes through the roof. All 5 members gather round a mic as Romeo strums his acoustic guitar and they launch into a wonderfully harmonious and mesmerising version of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’. Honestly the hairs on the back of my neck are standing on end, the harmonies created are outstanding! Upon ending, the crowd go wild with applause; there’s a very humble thank you from Romeo and it’s straight into the next song. The drum machine instantly gives this a whole other feel, bass, saxophone and keys, 2 female backing vocals and our headline make this sound incredible. a real 70s funk feel, so retro but alternating between the funky to a more laid back, more lounge jazz feeling sound. This is a theme, the sounds, genres and feels shift with each song – this is one eclectic and varied set indeed. With the addition of flute in other songs it brings a more vibrant, New York kind of feel, real street sounds…think early 80s, curly hair and head bands, on roller skates with a Walkman…those vibes, It’s brilliant stuff and totally fascinating. We get swept away to a different place during each track.
Our entire collective on stage are totally absorbed in the sounds they create and it’s easy to see the passion each of them has for making music, and a strong sense of friendship definitely comes across. This is inspiring and joyous. …the saw comes into play, the eagerly awaited talking point of the night, we’ve been wondering just how this would actually be played, but wow, what a stunning sound! Played with a bow whilst being tapped by foot, this sound is incredible, ghostly, eerie, haunting and gothic. I get a real 40s film noir or dark thriller movie feel. It’s very theatrical with Ren’s high, verging on operatic, vocal as backing. It’s very, very atmospheric. I envisage black and white scenes with mid century film sets from the Hollywood golden era.
The vocal from Romeo is soft and steady and full of expression, the American accent really comes through, giving another dimension ranging from gentle and lilting in tone to louder, fuller and strong. Genres continue to alter, fuse and are excellently constructed with slight shoegaze, grunge moments, to Americana then a real dust bowl depression era US blues, particularly with the harmonies. This whole sound transports us with them, a whole feeling is created, so easy to get lost inside this wonderful performance. Romeo has a very easy presence, very humble, softly spoken and so genuine and likeable as a whole. On stage these guys ooze cool! We instantly love them all. Songs tend to start as gentle melodic waves, lapping at the shore, caressing us, then building more intensity, getting bigger, more layering, more powerful, more volume, louder …into crescendo when the musical waves become tidal and crash against the rocks with vigour…then end…or gently ease back out. It’s mind blowing, fascinating and all encompassing.
Some Magic Numbers hits are performed solo by Romeo and his guitar then, ending on an extended version of ‘ Love me Like you’, our headline comes down from the stage doing a completely acoustic version, no mic. He wanders from table to table like some legendary minstrel, spending time at each table singing directly to us, culminating in the biggest and most enthusiastic audience participation I’ve witnessed. He has one half of us sing one part whilst the other half provide harmonies, all clapping the beats, whilst Romeo sings and plays his heart and soul out before us. It’s real rousing, uplifting stuff – what an incredible finale to what has been a very, very special gig. It’s stand out for me for so many different reasons: incredible musicians, a wealth of talent and diversity, genuinely lovely, down to earth people. My take home is the friendship between these guys and the effort put in to create such a wealth of different sounds and feels. With an equally stand out performance from special guest Jessica Luise, tonight is an event I will treasure.
Romeo, what a legend you are, you played an absolute blinder here in Warrington Irish club…please come back!
Set List: (The set list was mainly new material yet to be released)
1/ The Real Thing
2/ A United State of Love
3/ Hello Stranger
4/ Illusions Never Give
5/ Only iIf You Want Me To (Duet with Ren Harvieu)
7/ This Here Darkness
8/ Absence of Light
9/ Reflections of Love
10/ Sweet Forgiveness
11/ Solitary Motion
Magic Numbers songs were: –
12/ Forever Lost
13/ Love’s a Game
14/ Long Legs
15/ Gone are the Days (requested by someone in the audience)
16/ Love Me Like You
Follow Romeo Stodart / The Magic Numbers
My life is a soundtrack, i track my life through music, photography is my passion, my escape, my expression. Without both i have pieces missing, thankfully i’m blessed and get to combine both.
Born in Manchester, lived in Australia for 22 years where i was heavily involved in the Australian Music Industry, firstly in bands (Singer) and then managing bands (all original), I moved back to the UK, Wales specifically 10 years ago and married my childhood sweetheart and life is good.