I planned a whole trip around seeing this show, because if I hadn't, it would have been the first time in nearly a decade that I hadn't seen The Magnetic Fields tour. This month also marks a decade since I finished buying 69 Love Songs. Having grown up in a small town without a record store, I had to save up my money and get someone to drive me all the way to the Virgin Megastore in a nearby megamall. I bought the set in 3 installations, though my introduction to the band had been through "Busby Berkeley Dreams," on vol. 3, heard on a college radio show when I was 13. Over the next year or so, I caught up on buying all of the earlier albums (at the Virgin Megastore), and the rest is history.
Getting to the venue was a bit tricky because I was staying in Union Square and when I got off of the subway, Times Square was blocked off for a Black Eyed Peas concert. There were a lot of disorienting, flashing lights and so forth, but I decided to believe that they were indeed prophecying how good my night was going to be. After making it around the block, I hung out a bit in front of the venue until they let us in.
Luckily, I had entered on the side next to the merch table, and so I saw Mike and Emma
immediately and had a good chat about travel and previous shows and the Strange Powers
documentary. Apparently, my outfit was also orch-folk approved by Emma, who is herself an adorable creature.
The lights at Town Hall went down at exactly 8 p.m. Laura Barrett, the opener, was gorgeous. She thanked the Black Eyed Peas for opening for her (haha) and played an instrument that I could not quite identify. It was either an mpc or some sort of stringed instrument in a box that is played with the thumbs. I quite enjoyed her song/commercial jingle about the robot pony.
After an intermission, The Magnetic Fields emerged, all of them looking quite demure. Stephin, in his usual brown and beige palette and tiny ukulele , sat next to Sam Davol, who is kind of a fox and whose face I can never forget from the 69 Love Songs album art. John Woo, with his acoustic guitar, sat between Sam and Claudia, who played a keyboard. Finally, the lovely Shirley Simms sat at the end with another instrument that I am having trouble naming. Some sort of lap harp perhaps?
I was sitting in the stage right orchestra at this point, and while I had a view, it wasn't a great one. Stephin noticed that the first two rows were empty and asked people to come sit in them. And so I found myself at Shirley's feet, close enough to see the details on everyone's shoes. Sitting that close to one's favorite band (after a week of seeing a number of other nostalgia-inducing things) is so overwhelming. I cried through nearly every song while grinning widely. A few times, Stephin looked straight at me and I tried to crack a smile, but surely looked somewhat deranged with my tear-stained eyes.
Before I go through the set list, I should share the best banter of the night:
Stephin: "How about those...sports teams?" And then he mumbled a bunch of sports-related words like "semifinals," "triple hitter," and I don't remember what else because I was too busy laughing. Stephin took out some sort of sheet of paper with sports statistics on it and started reading them, and Sam took it away and put it under his seat.
Anyway, the show itself went like this:
1. Lindy-lou (The 6ths)
2. You Must be Out of Your Mind
3. The One You Really Love
5. You and Me and the Moon (There were a lot of songs from Get Lost on this setlist, which made me happy to no end. Also, Stephin dubbed this song "yet another song about threesomes with inanimate objects")
6. Better Things
7. Falling in Love With The Wolfboy
8. I Don't Want to Get Over You
9. I'm Sorry I Love You
10. Acoustic Guitar (with Claudia sounding better than ever)
11. Nun's Litany (Shirley)
12. I Don't Know What to Say
13. Night Falls Like a Grand Piano (The 6ths)
14. Falling Out of Love With You (The 6ths)
15. Kiss Me Like You Mean It (Shirley's twang was so good on this one)
16. We Are Having a Hootenanny (at which point, I realized how funny they look on stage with all of those instruments)
17. All the Umbrellas in London (triple swoon--it was a bit slower and more sad than in the recorded version)
18. Wi' Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget
19. The Dolls' Tea Party (probably the orch-folkiest song of the whole set, in its adorable, whimsical way. why do people always say this is a throwaway song on Realism?)
20. I Don't Really Love You Anymore (the humor really came out in this one because the vocals were so clear)
21. Always Already Gone (I don't remember when the banter was, but at some point Claudia started dedicating songs to professors at NYU and Columbia and Stephin was like, no, this song is not dedicated to anyone. I went to NYU. Which maybe explains the Derrida reference. At any rate, the crowd laughed and Stephin had to stick a finger in his ear).
22. Walk a Lonely Road (this was so perfect with the next song, and struck me as kind of a corollary to 'Born on A Train,' as well)
23. Fear of Trains (all of the songs from Charm of the Highway Strip were so delightfully twangy)
24. Summer Lies (I can't remember who did vocals on this one, but I am inclined to say it was Stephin)
25. From a Sinking Boat
26. I'm Tongue Tied
27. 100,000 Fireflies (such a perfect end to the night)
Overall, I was really happy about how much of the pre-no-synth stuff made an appearance (and how well the band adapted using the cello, to be honest). There is a great set of photos over at Brooklyn Vegan
and some more on the aforementioned TMF tour blog (where you can also see a picture of Claudia with Paul Rudd, who I somehow managed to miss seeing).
After the show, we went to Serendipity
where I nearly ate a huge bowl of cheesecake, strawberry ice cream, and fresh strawberries before it utterly defeated me.
Seriously, best week of my life. Thanks to all involved for making it possible.