COMING on stage singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas while throwing crackers into the crowd, it was clear that all those lucky enough to squeeze into the Talking Heads pub were in for an early festive treat.

With his impressive beard and stout belly, singer Romeo Stodart could well have been the real Santa.

Along with the rest of The Magic Numbers they came bearing gifts of beautiful melodies, catchy harmonies, and even came bearing gifts of wrapped T-shirts for the merry crowd . . . clearly the audience loved their early Christmas presents but some maybe had a little too much festive spirits, heckling the singer so he burst into laughter through many tunes.

It was obvious why crazy horse Neil Young invited the band to support him on his sell-out tour this year.

Mixing crowd pleasers from their eponymous debut with Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready, which flowed satisfyingly into the rowdy singalong Fairytale of New York, their own early tunes easily stood up against the classics.

It was only their new single I Don’t Care If It’s Christmas that took some festive cheer away, with its stories of unloved gifts and dishonest lovers.

Clearly there was something magical in the Solent water on the frosty Friday.

The band didn’t want to leave the stage and carried on playing requests until the early hours on Saturday – inviting the support acts Ren Harviu and equally admirably bearded The Goat Roaper Rodeo Band, they finished with covers of Harvest Moon, and Sandy Denny’s haunting Who Knows Where The Time Goes.

With the lucky crowd finally leaving their dancing shoes behind after midnight, where indeed?

Graham Tarrant