ian (sparkle_debacle) wrote,

Who's in, who's out, and who's best at Mah Jongg

Last Friday I went to see the Magnetic Fields at Manchester Cathedral. The first time I think I've been inside that cathedral, certainly the first time I've been to a cathedral for a concert. I had been wondering if they would play their supposed "gospel song", the God-bothering "Kiss me like you mean it". They opened with it, as it turned out. It was a wonderful place to see a concert, the setting grand and beautiful, the acoustics very good. They played twenty-nine songs, with a line-up of acoustic guitar, cello, ukelele, percussion and a little autoharp, and though there was lots from the new album, it was drawn from across their vast back catalogue, with lots of surprises.

I was sat with the inimitable Mr Cutter, who got me the ticket, and whose eccentric cabaret, "Bucket", I had been to the previous Friday, also in Manchester. Also with pygmyking. Both of these two had agreed to take part in my anthology comic so there was a fair amount of chatter about that beforehand. 

We were welcomed by the Dean of the Cathedral, every inch a man of the cloth, who said a few words about the magnificent cathedral and said it was only the second pop concert they had had there. They are making a habit of it now though, for Tindersticks played there a few days later. 
When they took the stage in a row below the gothic arches (not archies), Claudia said, "we'll try not to sweaer". Stephin said, "although it could be argued that the very name of this band is a swear word... the M.F.s."
I had forgotten how ravishing I found Claudia Gonson. (No need to tell me she's a lesbian, firstly I know that and secondly I was hardly going to ask her out anyway, was I?) I also find her very funny. It was the first time I'd seen them in ten years, which would make me feel old except I was already aware I am.

Set list with notable song introductions in quotation marks:

Kiss me like you mean it

You must be out of your mind! (title announced as if it referred to audience. (For those unaware, singer Stephin Merritt has a most curmudgeonly mien))

The luckiest guy on the Lower East Side ("A terrible old song" [!!!!])


Better Things

I don't want to get over you

Acoustic Guitar ("This song is about the worst thing in the world"- remark from the London introduction. Ironic since the entire set features acoustic guitar throughout.)

The Nun's litany ("a song about sex- or the lack thereof- which we are happy to sing for you...here.")

I don't really love you any more (title announced as if it referred to audience)

I don't know what to say

Shipwrecked (From Lemony Snicket project- most hilarious and the only song I hadn't heard before. One of two high points)

song from "The Wayward Bus", can't remember what, don't have that album

Lonely road 

I'm sorry I love you (I missed this in order to beat the toilet queue, which turned out to be extremely wise).


xylophone track

we're having a hootenanny

the dolls' tea party

wi' nae wee bairn ye'll me beget  

Always already gone ("Oh, we're glad you like the depressing ones"....)

All the umbrellas in London (..."this one's a suicide note")

The one you really love

The flowers she sent and the flowers she said she sent

Night falls like a grand piano

Fear of trains

Summer Lies

100 000 Fireflies

From a sinking boat

I'm tongue-tied

Papa was a rodeo ("The longest, slowest Magnetic Fields song" ...and the other high point)

When it was all over I had another "M.F.'s" show to look forward to, as my brother had given me for Christmas two tickets for their show at London's Barbican theatre the following Monday. He was going to, and I gave my spare ticket to my friend Sonja. After a Saturday stayed put in Leeds, going to the Common Place in the evening for "Funder Strikes" starring the fabulous BEARDS, I went to London on the sunday, met up for drinks and cheese with tekno_alice , then to my hosts' Sonja and Charlie for a yummy vegan pasta bake, lots of comics and 1960s girl group tunes.

Daytime Monday, though it wasn't the nicest day (unlike Sunday, tchah) I went to Kew gardens to see my friend James, who works there, and to see the gardens generally. Maybe more on that later. At The Barbican, I met Josh and Sonja and diamond_geyser  and assorted other friendly faces and failed to get to see the birds-landing-on-instruments-and making noises exhibit (image taken from Isabelle's entry about the exhibit, thanks Isabelle)

The Magnetic fields show this time wasn't as good an atmosphere. I was further away, at an angle, Stephin's vocals were too quiet and I could hardly hear what they were saying between songs. The set was almost identical to Manchester. The only two additions were "Long Vermont roads", and indiepop legend Amelia Fletcher (Marine Girls, Heavenly, Tender Trap) came on to sing "Looking for love (in the hall of mirrors)" as she did on a 6ths record ("it's about gay bars", noted Stephin). To make room they left out "The flowers she sent..." (bad move!) and "summer lies" AND that song from the first album whose name I can't recall. I was disappointed that "Kiss Me Like You Mean It" was still the opening number, as I had assumed that was chosen specially and significantly as a set-opener for the Cathedral. Oh well, I can't complain, there can't be many people who saw both shows. My foreknowledge got me into trouble after "I don't know what to say"- I made a gaffe by clapping immediately when it ended suddenly mid-line, and Claudia made a wry remark about "the early clapper" trying to be all smartass. I blushed. 

On the plus side for the London night, for the final "Papa was a Rodeo"- such a beautiful song- Stephin got up and swayed his way through it, moving across the stage, like a real showman. albeit a small, chubby, poorly-dressed showman.

I like the new album "Realism", but it does have a higher proportion of clunkers than usual ("we're having a hootenanny"- am I missing the joke here?) and, like its predecessor Distortion, suffers in its own way from lack of variety. The song that still seems to move me the most on it is "I don't know what to say", for though the lyrics are almost meaningless (presumably "inspired" by writers' block), the production and music and even the vocals conspire to give the illusion that its really really moving, and it almost had me on the verge of tears today. Quite a neat trick.

enough about The Magnetic Fields  I'll tell you about the rest of my London trip next time.

Tags: london, magnetic fields, manchester, reviews
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