On Monday I took my son to the Barbican to see The Magnetic Fields. It was his first proper gig. And an experience quite unlike most gigs I’ve been to before.
For a start it was entirely seated, and I’ve not been to one of those in a long time - and not just the audience, the band too. Secondly, it was in the Barbican Centre. We’ve been there a few times in the last few months for classical concerts and a dance performance, but it’s a strange venue for rock ‘n’ roll.
But then, rock ‘n’ roll isn’t exactly what The Magnetic Fields play.
Their 69 Love Songs is, as I was tweeting recently, one of the finest albums ever. It’s from 1999, it turns out, but I’ve only known it for a year or two. The first half of Monday’s show contained a good number of songs from it, and also some from the recent Distortion.
The highlight for my boy wasn’t even a Magnetic Fields song at all, but rather one by The Gothic Archies, one of their several alter egos. It also featured the only instance in the evening of singing along with the band; and that was just him, quietly singing ‘Shipwrecked’.
We were right up at the back of the balcony, but despite the distance and low volume, we could still hear everything perfectly. Well, except when they spoke between songs. The vocal mix wasn’t really designed for making that kind of thing audible at the back.
In fact Merritt’s vocals were at their best during the final song, when he took the mike off the stand and walked about. That got him closer to the mike, which suits his croonerish voice.
So they sent us off into the night with a fabulous ‘Papa was a Rodeo’.