Live Review: Artmagic

3 Jun

The Basement, Friday June 1, 2012

On the face of it, Artmagic is a strange proposition.

Featuring Richard Oakes of Suede – who famously replaced Bernard Butler at the ripe old age of 17 after sending the band a demo with a note saying ‘take me or leave me’ – and producer / vocalist Sean McGhee – who has mixed number one singles for Britney Spears and worked with Robyn and Sugababes – it would appear that they’ve spent most of their musical careers in parallel universes.

United, and on stage in Brighton for only their second show out of London, it soon made perfect sense, even if their classy and clever songs betrayed little about their past achievements.

It’s no surprise, then, that this didn’t sound like Suede, nor was there any shimmering disco pop, but rather a succession of dreamy and instantly impressive songs that appear to have been painstakingly crafted with real care and attention.

McGhee was an enchanting frontman and it was his booming vocals which were the driving force, neatly cushioned by Oakes’ accomplished guitar.

Highlights included forthcoming single Forever in Negative, a swaying, foot-stomper which, while hardly raucous, showed them at their most lively. It might not be at the cutting edge of cool, but it’s an immensely likeable and highly addictive slice of polished pop that ought to find a loving home on the Radio 2 playlist where it can be plugged to the mainstream masses.

At the other end of their scale, Up, is a beautifully delicate, stripped-back song that was played to a hushed awe. Like much of their set, it buries inside your brain so quickly that you’re convinced you’ve known it for years.

It takes real skill and talent to pull that off, two Artmagic attributes that deserve to receiver wider acclaim when their debut album comes out next month. Someone ought to tell Chris Evans, sharpish.

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