Friday, 15 October 2010


I had a wonderful evening earlier in the week, watching a special collaborative gig at the Underbelly in Hoxton. My old school friend (and Suede guitarist) Richard Oakes has recently been involved in a songwriting partnership with pop producer Sean McGhee, who’s worked with the likes of Sugababes, Imogen Heap, Robyn, Alanis Morrisette and Britney Spears. Richard and Sean have been writing together for about two years, and recently started performing some of these co-authored songs live under the band name Artmagic. Sean felt that much of his collaborative efforts with Richard were too personal to be farmed out to other singers – eventually resolving to front the project himself.

I’ve seen them live a few times now – Sean has a beautiful voice and is blossoming as a front man. It’s also been really delightful to see Richard, after such a lengthy spell away from the live stage, rediscovering the joy of performance both with Artmagic and Suede (who headline the O2 in December).

The Underbelly gig was organized by Sean, with the intention of uniting several of his current collaborators. Artmagic were, of course, in attendance. Also featured were Kate Havnevik, Andrew Montgomery and The Gadsens. Kate is an acclaimed Norwegian singer who writes haunting but incredibly catchy songs... and also plays a mean electric guitar. Andrew Montgomery is a tall, genial Scotsman with a beautiful operatic voice. He was the lead singer of criminally underrated 90s band Geneva, now working on a series of truly haunting solo tracks. The Gadsdens are a young indie band, whose ‘Sailor Song’, championed of late by Radio 2’s Radcliffe and Maconie, is a firm favourite of mine.

The small Hoxton stage was packed with a cast of eight talented musicians - nine if you count an impromptu ukelele solo by Sean’s friend Woody in the closing song. Rather than each offering a defined set, the players performed one another’s songs (more than half co-written by the prolific Sean) continually swapping between mikes with joky cheerfulness. Stand-out moments included the live debut of two new Artmagic songs (‘Blue on Blue’ and ‘Heaven is Here’), The Gadsdens’ stirring performance of their signature ‘Sailor Song’, Kate’s recent release ‘Disobey’ and Andrew’s show-closing up-tempo number ‘La Graciosa.’ In short, I loved it.

Hear some Artmagic tracks and sign up to their friends list here...

Photographs from top - Sean McGhee / Andrew Montgomery and Richard Oakes / Kate Havnevik. Reproduced by kind permission

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