On Thursday last week – which would be March 25th – I went to see The Magnetic Fields live. I was debating whether or not I really should, as the ticket prices were somewhat steep – 300 NOK a piece – and I’d already seen them the last time they were in Norway, when they performed in Gamle Logen in 2008. As I’d already gotten the live experience from the band, would this second concert be different enough to warrant attending? Might as well attend it to find out, I figured.
While it wasn’t exactly different, it wasn’t a waste of money either, and they were a bit more rockin’ than they were last time – perhaps in part due to incorporating (what sounded like) maracas into a few of their numbers, and having given up the mandolin for a ukulele. Personal highlights included “The Nun’s Litany”, “Shipwrecked”, “I Am Sorry I Love You”, and “Fear Of Trains”. Between the songs there was the usual dry banter between Claudia Gonson and Stephin Merritt. But unlike last time, they didn’t instruct the audience to restrict their applause to in between songs; Stephin has a hearing disorder known as hyperacusis, basically meaning he’s overly sensitive to loud sounds, so loud applauding mid-songs seems to throw him off his game. During the fan-favourite “The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side” the crowd starting cheering while the song was still playing, earning the crowd a strict frown and head shake while (I think) Stephin mouthed the word no. There were some other bursts of applause throughout, but nothing quite as loud or enthusiastic as during that song, and Stephin didn’t object. I was also surprised that they’d put out folding chairs for the audience, which I’ve never seen done at Rockefeller before. All in all, it was a rather enjoyable concert.
But as many bands tend to do, they performed an indecent number of songs from their latest album, Realism. It is an understandable practice in some ways, as the band may have tired of their older songs and are having fun playing new material, and they also want to expose people to their newest music in the hopes that they’ll buy it. But what about leaving the audience wanting more? Giving them a taste of your newest album, but playing little enough so that they’ll still have a few surprises after they’ve purchased it. And what about representing your back catalog and getting people interested in your other, older releases as well? What about surprising the audience with a diverse selection of tracks from all facets of your career?
I am fairly sure they performed the following songs from their latest album: “You Must Be Out Of Your Mind”, “Interlude”, “We Are Having A Hootenanny”, “I Don’t Know What To Say”, “The Dolls’ Tea Party”, “Always Already Gone”, “Better Things”, and “From A Sinking Boat”. So that’s eight out of thirteen tracks from the CD, if I’ve counted correctly. A bit much, in my opinion. If a band has a big enough back catalog, they should try restricting themselves to playing no more than four tracks from their latest album.
Speaking of Realism, I found the album – just like their previous album, Distortion – rather disappointing. The only really good song from it is arguably “You Must Be Out Of Your Mind”, and the rest sort of blend together into one with no melodies nor lyrics really standing out (at least not in a good way). Also, it took me forever to get the CD out of its cardboard sleeve. Actually got the whole family involved on the project, and it took a few hours until we managed to get it out, the sleeve by then slightly worn. I’m curious if there was some sort of product error with mine, or if they’re all equally hard to un-sleeve.
Leaving you now with one of the songs I managed to record from the concert. Unfortunately I didn’t get anything from their first part (yes, they had an intermission), which was probably the best part. Still, this one ain’t half bad. I also have some other songs from the same performance, if there’s any interest, and if the sound quality of this is tolerable.