Magic Man Captivate at the TLA

This is the third time we’ve seen Magic Man play Philadelphia this year. First was at Penn’s spring fling concert, second was at Panic! at the Disco’s This Is Gospel tour at Festival Pier, and now we’ve seen them nailing their set (yet again) at the Theatre of Living Arts. When we talked to Magic Man last week, frontman Alex told us they’d learned a thing or two since dropping a wildly successful full-length debut and opening up for Panic!.

Oddly enough, for how young of a band they are, this is the first time we’ve seen them play a small venue. Their previous shows had been to significantly larger crowds at both Franklin Field and Festival Pier; it was a treat to see them in a more intimate setting, effortlessly working the crowd. And that’s the thing about Magic Man that’s inescapable — no matter if an audience knows their music or not, they are experts at getting a crowd excited. Whether it’s a product of their music, their stage presence, their dance moves, or a combination of all three, it’s impossible not to have fun at a Magic Man concert.

They’re still rocking the perfect mix of old songs and new, even bringing back the one track from the EP that didn’t make it to the LP — “Nova Scotia.” Seeing them perform now, it’s clear how much they’ve learned in the past few months. Their live sound is tighter, crisper, better punctuated than it’s been in the past. They’re taking musical risks and shaking things up every now and then, like replacing some of the synth phrases in “Paris” with guitar riffs. Every song is overwhelmingly present and engaging, drawing the audience in with shimmering synth, Alex’s crooning vocals, some of the slickest drums in the synthpop game, and spectacular guitar. It’s the perfect combination.

Most refreshing was finally getting a taste of album closer “It All Starts Here” live, the build up of the song much more subtle in person than on the recording. It’s a beautifully climactic song, layering itself with every new verse until it finally collapses at the end to a frenzy of call-and-response vocals with frenetic but tight instrumentals.

All told, Magic Man are a powerhouse synthrock band to watch out for. Their shows are consistently fun, beautifully set, and elegantly structured. What’s best is that they look like they’re having as much fun performing as you’re having listening. We’re anxious to see what’s next for these guys — we’re sure it’s going to be huge.

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