TVD Live: The Magnetic Fields, the 9:30 Club, 4/9

Since 1991, The Magnetic Fields, have been charming the pants off everyone found along the highway strip and beyond, with their rich blend of genre-crossed indie/noise/synth pop filling the 9:30 Club on a Monday night.  

The heart of the band is predicated by Steve Merritt’s lyrical genius and backed by Claudia Gonson’s instrumental talent.  “We’re here to play songs off of our new album, Love at the Bottom of the Sea,” Merritt asserted very early on in the show, but the performance actualize was a delightful mix of old and new songs, lots of heckling fans, and enough stage banter to keep hardcore fans beaming for days after.

The Quartet Devotchka opened for The Magnetic Fields with with a sound that is usually likened to gypsy or circus music, but I liked the last couple of songs that I heard, which were a bit darker and more burlesque than I had anticipated they might sound.

Then Magnetic Fields start with a joke by Gonson about how they are running late and are feeling a bit off-kilter, and they should be on their seventh song by now, leading into “I Die” off of the 2004 i album. Steve Merritt thanks the audience after the song, and the room erupts in laughter. His vocals are so droll it’s almost comical, but I also just think everyone’s really excited to hear Merritt in person, as I know I am. The anticipation bubbles out in a delicious wave over the audience as “A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off” starts to play.

Merritt jokes, “You’re a very attractive audience [true]; I hear if you say something nice, people feel flattered.” The room buzzes with his silliness and some hecklers shout out a few requests. This is when he says the band will be playing a songs off the 2012 album and launches into “Your Girlfriend’s Face.”

Merritt’s not the only joke cracker, as Gonson asserts that “we’re a bunch of feminists” before “Reno Dakota” starts.  The audience loudly sings along and everyone raises their glasses, united singing “It makes me drink beer,” a moment that chills me to remember.  Here I am, watching the show alone from the balcony, and I’m smiling at my neighbors who nod and sing along with me.  You’re really never alone at a good show like this one.

A male voice from the crowd asks what instrument Merritt is playing, and he reveals in his characteristically droll voice, “It’s a harmonium.”  Crowd Heckler replies, “Dude, that is awesome,” but what is also awesome is the vast array of instruments also on stage.  Joining Merritt is Shirley Simms, who has been singing backing vocals and plucking away at a ukelele, along with Sam Davol on cello and Gonson on a grand piano.  For a sold-out, packed show, the sophisticated instruments and witty stage banter make me feel like I’ve been invited to NPR’s Tiny Desk series.

So many favorite songs were played, I can’t even count, including “Book of Love,” (which I’ve decided if I ever get re-married will be played at my next wedding), “Out of Your Mind” off of Realism, and “Born on a Train” off The Charm of the Highway Strip.

Photos by Liz Gorman

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