This weekend marked my third time seeing the Magnetic Fields and my first time seeing them in support of their current record Realism. As always, their show was a great chance to relax and enjoy slightly more delicate versions of the classics (and rarities) you’ve enjoyed for years.
Claudia Gonson informed us early on that they had devised two set lists for this tour in order to keep themselves from getting bored. That night we would be getting “set B.” I didn’t know if that meant we’d be getting fewer of ‘the hits’ than the other set, but I correctly assumed it meant we’d be getting a fair amount of rarities. For instance, the show opened up with the 6ths’ track “Lindy-Lou,” pretty much setting the tone for the setlist. And though I don’t think we got anything off Showtunes or the Eban and Charley soundtrack like we did in San Francisco two years ago, they did a fair bit of dusting off of old tracks for us and it was appreciated.
In fact, I’d say the set list and performance was just about perfect for me. I’d already seen them do most of my favorite songs (except for “Luckiest Guy…”) and the inclusion of “Fear of Trains,” “100,000 Fireflies” and “All the Umbrellas in London” pretty much scratched the rest off my favorites list. Sure, there are still a few dozen more songs I hope to see them play before I die (top of the list: “Born on a Train”), but for having such an expansive back catalogue, they’ve done more than should be expected to appease myself and other fans.
And as my friend who went to the show pointed out, that might have been one of the most heartwarming things about the Magnetic Fields’ show: fan reaction. Nearly every song was met with someone in the audience letting out an audible gasp or small cry of elation. Even if you didn’t know or particularly care for a song, it was good to know that someone was getting great joy out of it.
Finally I have to confess that the songs on Realism did sound a lot better live than I gave them credit for on record. Maybe it’s because the intimate performance left me able to focus more on the lyrics, or perhaps I was just so enraptured by the show that they seemed better. Who knows. The point is that, though I would have usually preferred something off another album, the Realism songs weren’t half bad. The real bummer was that Distortion was completely bumped from the set list with the exception of “the Nun’s Litany.” A shame, since that album has only grown on me since its release. Maybe Realism will do the same.
More photos after the break.