The Magnetic Fields at First Avenue, 11/13/12

Categories: Last Night

The comical new song, "The Horrible Party" rang true to everyone who has ever found themselves trapped in a roomful of fools, with Stephin causing Gonson to laugh as he played a kazoo that sounded just like a duck-call. Musette came out to join the band on "Smoke And Mirrors," providing a Belle and Sebastian-like spoken word bit at the end of the number, before Merritt once again provided another humorous introduction. "I wrote this next song in a drunken stupor, because I don't remember writing it. It's not true. A lot of people ask me if this is true, and it's not." And with that came "Andrew In Drag," which drew the biggest applause of the night due to its local radio play. Stephin was having plenty of fun with the short number, though, playfully half-assing it during the witty chorus.

A stunning trio from 69 Love Songs highlighted the back end of the main set, as a glorious version of "Busby Berkeley Dreams," the quick-hitting "Boa Constrictor," and a heart-stopping rendition of "The Book of Love" truly floored the house, as everyone stood in stunned silence as the divine songs swept us all away. As the crowd gave the band a well-earned ovation, Gonson joked, "After the John Wayne Gacy portion of our set, we've now shifted into the Marriage Proposal part of the show. If you missed your chance during that song, you will have two more opportunities during the rest of the show."

Photo By Erik Hess

A splendid version of "Fear of Trains" from The Charm of the Highway Strip kept the emotional level of the show high, before the band once again returned to 69 Love Songs for a stirring rendition of "Grand Canyon," which was prefaced by Merritt and Gonson discussing how the song was inspired by Stephin wanting to throw his mother's boyfriend into the Grand Canyon when he was young. "It wasn't my mother's boyfriend," corrected Merritt humorously, "It was her 'friend' Jeff." Either way, the song was stunning.

Merritt mentioned how he went to London when he was 15 or so, and "Unbeknownst to me, I could get into the clubs, but I just couldn't drink. It was the summer of New Romantics, with people in pirate outfits and clownish costumes, and if your hair was its natural color you had no sense of fashion." But he missed out on all of the fun, sadly, because he didn't know he could get into the clubs. "This song is about another great time to have been in London, 1963." And a bouncy version of "Swinging London" gave the end of the set an energetic spark.

Merritt mischievously introduced a showstopping version of "It's Only Time" by saying, "It's an advertisement for Angostura Bitters. It's only time...for Angostura Bitters." Gonson chimed in, "It's the second song in our Marriage Proposal trilogy" as Merritt concluded, "So get down on your knees, baby." First Avenue has never been as quiet as it was for that song, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who got choked up during that absolutely gorgeous number. The set ended with a quick, touching cover of the Gothic Archies "Smile! No One Cares How You Feel," as Merritt gave a brief wave and was off.

Photo By Erik Hess

After a short break, the band returned, and Gonson took a moment to thank the appreciative and respectful crowd, "Thanks to you Minnesotans. And here we go." And with that, the band eased into a marvelous version of "All My Little Words" led by Davol's elegiac cello, with Stephin's voice breaking as if on cue, perfectly matching the "Not if I could write for you/The sweetest song you ever heard" lyrics.

Merritt then announced "This is our post-penultimate number," before Gonson let it be known that, "This is our final song in our Marriage Proposal trilogy," as the set ended with a graceful version of "Forever and a Day." After a four year absence from the Twin Cities that indeed felt like forever and a day, the Magnetic Fields charmed everyone at First Avenue with songs that are packed with emotion and a live show that perfectly balances comedy and tragedy, leaving all of us rightly moved.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I just wrote over 1300 words about a 95-minute performance. I'm obviously a massive fan of the Magnetic Fields.

The Crowd: Not a full house, by any means, but the quietest, most respectful First Avenue audience I have ever encountered. That really helped make the show even more special.

Overheard In The Crowd: "Play a really, really good song" at the start of the encore, to which Merritt replied, "And now for the worst song in the Magnetic Fields catalog."

Random Notebook Dump: The main floor was intentionally darkened, and the side bars were shut down, giving the club a shadowy appearance that only heightened the mood of the music.



I Die

A Chicken With It's Head Cut Off

Your Girlfriend's Face

Reno Dakota

Come Back From San Francisco

No One Will Ever Love You

I've Run Away To Join The Fairies

Plain White Roses

Drive On, Driver

My Husband's Pied-A-Terre

Time Enough For Rocking When We're Old

The Horrible Party

Smoke And Mirrors

Goin' Back To The Country

Andrew In Drag


Busby Berkeley Dreams

Boa Constrictor

The Book Of Love

Fear Of Trains

You Must Be Out Of Your Mind

Grand Canyon

Swinging London

It's Only Time

Smile! No One Cares How You Feel (The Gothic Archies)

All My Little Words (Encore)

Forever And A Day (Encore)

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