OMG! OMG! OMG!
Walking into the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and hearing “Robot Ponies” is slightly strange. I got to the venue partway through Laura Barrett’s set, and the sound was damned good, though you could hear the nerves in Laura’s voice, and more so her calming herself before playing. She played well, and had Ajay Mehra, Randy Lee & Dana Snell playing with her (the American dates of the tour are without Lee & Snell). After her set, I did hear some audience members commenting on how lovely Barrett’s voice is. No matter what, it’ll always be strange to be at a Laura Barrett show where there’s more than a couple metres distance between us, but I’m sure she’ll be playing some tiny venues like Sneaky Dee’s soon.
Then I visited merch. They sold out of Realism on vinyl, wtf?!?! They have yet to receive the cast recording of Coraline, sigh. I ended up buying three pins.
Stephin. Stephin. Umm, wow.
Stephin tortured the audience by introducing the first song as “100,000 Fireflies” and then proceeded to play “Lindy-Lou” by The 6th. Well, I guess that answered my question, would he play non-Magnetic Fields songs, the answer is yes. The Magnetic Fields on this tour are Stephin Merritt (obviously, playing what I don’t think is a ukelele, but is a lute-like instrument), Shirley Simms (autoharp), Claudia Gonson (keys), John Woo (guitar) and Sam Davol (cello).
Gonson serenaded the audience with “Acoustic Guitar” from 69 Love Songs, through a horrible cold, and also duetted with Merritt on “Wi’ Nae Wee Bairn Ye’ll Me Beget,” also from 69 Love Songs. Simms sang the tale of a woman’s spiral into debauchery, “The Nun’s Litany” from Distortion, and most surprisingly, “Born On A Train” from The Charm Of The Highway Strip, one of my favourite songs, from one of my favourite albums. Usually sung by Merritt, but Simms’ mechanical twang seemed to be a perfect match to the country song.
I was completely taken aback when Merritt said “This one’s called ‘You And Me And The Moon’ from our albums Get Lost.” This is perhaps one of my favourite Magnetic Fields songs, and to hear them play an acoustic version of this gay-dance-pop anthem was perfection. A close second, though was “All The Umbrellas In London” from the same record.
They came out for a short encore, and played “I’m Tongue-Tied” from i; at which point Natalia turned to me, and said, “Finally a song I know.” I guess that’s what you get if you go to a show of a band who’s been playing for 20 years, and my iTunes library (which isn’t complete) has 350 songs. They closed with “100,000 Fireflies,” bringing the show full circle. Merritt sung this one, which on Distant Plastic Trees was sung by Susan Anway.
I could say a lot more, I could talk about how Merritt commenting that all the songs could be called “I Don’t Really Love You Anymore” was pure comic gold, or how instrumentally they were incredible.
I could also talk about the imperfections, like Merritt’s voice being pitchy, Gonson’s voice breaking, or the great amount of silence, but who cares? That would be nitpicking and it was one of the greatest nights in my memory of rock and roll… I’m old, and have been to a lot of shows.
Life is good. Thank you Magnetic Fields, thank you Laura Barrett.