Live Review: The Magic Gang @ O2 Forum Kentish Town

The Magic Gang @ O2 Forum Kentish Town The Magic Gang play a polished and fervent London headline show in support of their debut album before they continue on to Europe and Japan.
Posted: 2 October 2018 Words: Sam Barker

The Magic Gang play a polished and fervent London headline show in support of their debut album before they continue on to Europe and Japan.

With the arrival of The Magic Gang at the O2 Forum Kentish Town, we find the Brighton band on their way and winding through England before they head off to Europe and Japan on tour following the release of their eponymous debut album earlier this year. Kicking off the evening to the trickling-in crowd was Drip Gloss, who more than made up for the audience’s predominant pre-band-apathy with a stage presence that belied their time on the scene. They opened up the evening with their high, bordering on bubblegum-sweet, alt-pop. Fun and striking, the band’s energy propelled them through a thunderous performance where the band’s newness only showed up in the contrasting on-stage movements as lead guitarist Katie McHugh glanced furtively around the venue at all times, the forwards tilt of her head casting her eyes in perpetual shade, as bassist Ben Walker’s hips never stop swinging aggressively from side to side, his hair perpetually in his face, his joints no doubt in constant danger of popping out. Drummer Joe McTaggart anchored the whole thing with heavy kick-drums and constant power as Vanilla Jenner thrashed away on rhythm guitar whilst moving back and forth from high and clear to growlingly delivered vocals. Second up was Spector, who most of the pre-Magic Gang crowd had clearly turned up for. From the moment vocalist, Fred Macpherson sauntered onstage, to where the rest of the band had already taken their positions, it was clear where the focus would be for the rest of the performance. Cocky, messy, and loud, but gloriously so, Spector enthralled and delighted the masses as they prowled the stage and mugged for cameras – stopping the photographers in the wake of one completed song to stage a ‘mid-song’ photo of vocalist and guitarist rocking out together. In the midst of it all, disco hits filled the room from both the speakers and the audience in equal measure. Earth, Wind & Fire’s 'September' had the crowd shouting along and bouncing off each other. It was a kind of joy reserved for knowledge, a kind of participation and enthusiasm that came out of their hearing something they know and thus being able to interact with it. At least, that is, until The Magic Gang took the stage. It was a performance spanning genres which seemed irrelevant to the song’s content. Genre differences and performance definition came to mean more with regards to the band’s confidence and state of mind as the show went on, rather than the actual lyrics or music necessarily. It started off as vaguely kitschy pop-rock, confident but anxious, everyone pounding away harder and louder than the other at their respective instrument. As the show progressed they carried on with the same fervour through all of their songs, playing with the audience at times by pausing at the height of a song, forcing the audience to chant and shout as the band gestured for them to go louder, want it more, until they slammed back into the choruses. Towards the end, the songs struck an unmistakable bluesy note, with fuzz and distortion colouring open chords and single-note riffs that called to mind Jack White and ZZ Top in equal measure, albeit through a more poppy lens. The sound progressed from pop indie rock to blues rock as the audience careened around, widening out then rushing into each other in leaping throes. What stood out, however, was a marked disconnect between the genuine fervour and mood of the band versus an atmosphere of forced aggression from the audience which was at odds with the band, with the music, with the movement of the rest of the audience. The only moments of stillness came when a man nigh on cartwheeled out of the fray, his head connecting with the frame surrounding the soundboard with an audible thud, and when the band premiered a new, slower, song to open the encore. It was a great performance from The Magic Gang, a consummation that successfully trajects the happiness and joy and life we discovered on the album - channelling all the energy and chaos into an exciting live version. But nothing much happened. Nothing unexpected was revealed. Nothing changed dramatically. There wasn’t much, besides polish, that really hallmarked the band as the headlining outfit. Perhaps, however, that merely speaks to the talent of the supporting bands just as much as the talent of The Magic Gang. Photo: Katie Willoughby

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