Tuesday 25 August 2009

The Magnets - Six guys, six mics and one heck of a lot of talent

Fresh from one thing I've never heard before, I headed to another this afternoon. Before I go further, I should note this review requires a shameless plugs tag: my ticket had been bought for my by Venue 40 colleague John Welton whose son Michael, together with Nic Doodson, James Fortune, Steve Trowell, Andy Frost, Derek Elroy and Fraser Collins, is one of The Magnets.

Over the last few years I've wandered past the vast purple upended cow that takes over Bristo Square in August and wondered what strange things go on there (okay, I have a fair idea, but I've just never actually managed to get to a show there before). It's a slightly odd venue, and actually feels bigger inside than you might expect.

Background music is pumping fairly loudly as you enter and the eagle-eyed might notice the singers, radio mics in hand, sneaking into empty seats. And then they start - a mix of a cappella and human beatboxing. Extraordinarily, and I use that word because the melodies they build up make this difficult to believe, there is not a single instrument used (except two blows of a harmonica for comic purposes when this is stated) and there is no backing track.

With this, then, they cover a range of classics, complete with impressive choreography (not least in the Michael Jackson cover). Indeed, it's no mean feat that they're able to keep it up for the hour, and able to fit in a costume change. Perhaps most impressive is Frost, whose beatboxing drum solo (complete with the perfectly timed mime) is little short of gobsmaking.

There is wit and humour too, including their portrayal of bagpipes, inaccurate primarily in that it isn't painful to listen to!

They wound things up with an A to Z medley, involving a little cheating (X was done via Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and passed of as X-Factor). I was only able to identify the easy ones, such as the Beatles, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, Led Zeppelin and Guns and Roses (disconcertingly, the eight year old in the front row seemed to be streets ahead of all of us).

An unabashed recommendation then? Well, not quite. It was often too loud (and needlessly so), with the bass notes particularly distorting sometimes. It's a pity, as it marred an otherwise great performance by an exceptional group of artists.

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