The Magnetic Fields at Town Hall, Saturday February 23rd, 2008.

The Magnetic Fields at Town Hall, Saturday February 23rd, 2008.

This show was one of the best sit down experiences of my life, and I have Kate and Anoop to thank for it (thank you for buying tickets during the pre-sale, we all had killer seats!). Town Hall first of all is a really beautiful venue, and I am happy to go there no matter where I am sitting, but we happened to have tickets for Row B (the second row), and Stephen Merritt was so close to us that I felt like I could touch him (and if I tried I probably could have).

The only other time I had been to Town Hall before was for Prairie Home Companion, and we sat in the balcony (there really isn’t a bad seat in the venue). As far as the Magnetic Fields go I had seen them once before in Raleigh, NC. When I saw them previously I was so tired from driving that I found myself falling asleep while they were playing (not because I was bored, just exhausted). This time I got the Magnetic Fields experience I had always wanted.

The opening act was the Interstellar Radio Company. This was a group of people who did a reading of the Tell Tale Heart. It was actually pretty neat. One gentleman did all of the voices, another did some minimal backing music, and a third did sound effects. While the reader and musician were very good at what they did…the highlight by far was the gentleman who did the sound effects. He used everything from drum machines, to his throat (making the heart beat), and even celery (breaking of arms and legs). Their performance only lasted about 15 minutes, and was the perfect short opener for the Magnetic Fields.

The Magnetic Fields played for just over an hour and a half. They took an intermission after 40 minutes, and then came back on stage to finish the set. Unlike the last time I saw them, they played as a five piece. They had their normal line up of: Stephin Merritt, Claudia Gonson, Sam Davol, and John Woo. But they were also joined by Shirley Simms. I was very confused at the show because I had only remembered the band as a four piece. Simms’ voice and presence fit in so well with the band, and after doing research this is because Simms has been collaborating with the Fields since 69 Love Songs (and sings about half of the songs on Distortion). I knew that her voice was familiar (she also sounds a lot like Claudia).

One interesting thing was that Claudia sang some of the songs that Stephin usually sings. It was just wonderful being able to see the dynamic in the band where it is possible for them to switch on and off vocals on songs that are typically done by the other vocalist. Some song highlights for me were: “Papa was a Rodeo” (which Stephin kept telling the band to play faster…it was a very slow version of the song), “I Don’t Believe You” (from i), “California Girls” and “Zombie Boy” (from Distortion), “Take Ecstasy With Me” (from Holiday), and an impressive live version of “Three-Way” (which I was surprised to see played live at all). The set also included several sound track songs as well as a couple from the Gothic Archies albums (possibly a track by the Sixths as well).

The banter between Claudia and Stephin was wonderful, and as always funny. The band was extremely tight. My only wish was that the show would have lasted much longer, but I know that was just a dream. If I could have afforded it I would have loved to go all four nights.

Please enjoy the video of the Gothic Archies (above) and (the not so great)
St. Vincent and John Vanderslice covering the Magnetic Fields.

There are no photos in this post because all photos of the show were copywrited.

(Tom)

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