What: The Magnets
When: March 26th 2011
The Magnets are starting to become a phenomenon. Last year’s T-mobile “welcome back” viral advert, with over nine million hits (combined) featured some of The Magnets and their recent appearance on Comic Relief doing a surprise thank you to Sainsburys has brought them very much into the public eye.
So what’s special about The Magnets. For a start they can actually sing, performing multi-part harmonies combined with amazing beat box rhythms and backed by NO instruments at all. Yes you heard it right, a beat box a capella group. With great arrangements by lead singer Steve Trowell the band take you through a wonderful selection of music. Leading us from Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams” to Bon Jovi’s “livin’ on a prayer” or even Hendrix’s “Cross town traffic”!
I first saw The Magnets in a small central London club and I wondered if The Roundhouse would be too big for them. Not because of its size as there were plenty of people there but to see if their performance could captivate a large audience like it does an intimate club. I needn’t have worried, their professional approach and well rehearsed act entertained even from a distance.
They introduce humour into their show, not just by the risque comments about black fruit pastilles and what amazing things beat box maestro Andy frost can do with his lips but also with their facial expressions and song interpretations. With only some chairs, hats and standard lamps for company on the stage it seemed at first bare, however very soon filled with movement and drama as the band made great use of the space to bring life to their songs.
There was one section of their act that I didn’t think carried over to the large venue very well and that was their A-Z quiz. They asked the audience to shout out movie theme tunes as soon as the recognised them, starting from the A-Team through to Zorro. This may have worked well for those in the standing area in front of the stage but from up in the circle the audience interaction was lost in a hub bub of indistinguishable shouts which just made hearing the next tune was even harder.
The other area that didn’t work for me was when the Roundhouse choir joined the band for “Dog days are over”. The Magnets sound is very full and adding 20-30 extra voices didn’t contribute anything extra of note. Tonight’s headline slot for The Magnets was part of the Voices Now weekend and you could see why putting the two together would have seemed like a good idea. It could of worked well but didn’t in my view.
For a vocal ensemble it’s rare to have just a single voice, however when that is Andy’s beat box drum solo you can forgive the interruption to normal service. You only really get to appreciate just how good he is when you hear him do a single drum, symbol or sound and be immediately impressed about how authentic his representation is. Then stand open mouthed as he layers these together into a symphony of rhythm, an aural explosion to rival an octopus playing behind the biggest drum kit you can imagine. God only knows how he manages to produce the sounds together let alone make it tight and compelling. His demonstration lasted a little too long for me and some of the magic started to wear off through it being slightly over-exposed. Maybe you can get too much of a good thing.
The Magnets know how to work a crowd and by the end of the evening they had them eating out of their hands. Well to be more precise had them joining with the bands hands on The Jackson’s “Blame it on the boogie”. All told a great evening of entertainment and a band you really have to see live. You can listen to them on the TV or youtube but it’s only when you can see that there really are no backing tracks or instruments that you can believe it.
Pictures from The Magnets recent gig at The Roundhouse. Make your own mind up about which is your favorite pastille