Monday, February 15, 2010

Concert Review: The Magnetic Fields, Wilbur Theatre, February 11

Oh, Stephin Merritt, you are so droll. You are so witty. Your songs are so exquisite. If only you were so lively. Please, can Magnetic Fields concerts be inspired by your opening number, "Kiss Me Like You Mean It"? The band takes the notion of chamber pop too seriously in the live setting. The material was perfectly presented except for a few bum notes caused by laryngitis going through the tour bus, but it was staid. The band's performance was pleasant enough but hardly vital. As a songwriter, Merritt mines so many nuances of emotion, but the band didn't convey that emotion. They replicated the recordings but didn't bring the songs to life. Apart from some awkwardly amusing repartee between Merritt and Claudia Gonson, there was little to recommend for their concert over their albums.

There was are recurring theme of songs about vampires, surprising considering they never played the Future Bible Heroes song, "I'm a Vampire," even though they played songs by Merritt's other outfits, the Sixths and the Gothic Archies.

Opener Laura Barrett's main accompaniment was the kalimba, a thumb piano that sounds like a music box. Her quirkiness would have worn thin quickly if she had just tried to coast on her charms, the way too much '90s indie pop relied on the mistaken belief that cuteness compensates for ineptitude. But she and her accompanist were fully competent of their hodge podge of instruments, and she never sang a bum note, making her odd songs were appealing.

Magnetic Fields set list:

Kiss Me Like You Mean It
You Must Be Out of Your Mind
The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side
We Are Having a Hootenanny
Walk a Lonely Road
When Will You Love Me Again
All I Want To Know
I Have the Moon
Looking for Love [In the Hall of Mirrors]


Xylophone Track
Long Vermont Roads
You You You You You
The Nun's Litany
I'm Sorry I Love You
Don't Look Away
The Little Hebrew Girl
The Flowers She Sent and the Flowers She Said She Sent
Better Things
Fear of Trains
The Dolls' Tea Party
Always Already Gone
100,000 Fireflies

I Die
From a Sinking Ship

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