What to say...?
Is there any way to describe the insurmountable feeling of seeing your favorite band in concert? How do I describe an experience so emotional and wholly personal? What is there to say about that breathtaking moment where you see Stephin Merritt walking, finger plugged in ear, from behind a curtain and going to perch himself on his little stool to play these songs that mean so incredibly much to me in my life for me? How do I summarize? I really can't muster up the strength or intelligence to do so in any sort of comprehensible manner. I can say, though, that there were times during my experience with The Magnetic Fields at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, The Pageant, and the Harris Theater where I was literally trying to stop smiling because my cheeks hurt so much, but I just downright couldn't. And, goddamn it, that's special.
At this point, you've all seen the set lists, and know how stupendous they are. The band is fluctuating between two sets and both of them do an absolutely superb job covering the band's career, though the obvious focus is on Realism. And, goddamn, do those songs translate well live. Mr. Merritt is known for his lack of vocal character, but I swear on "Better Things," these past four nights, he sounded downright emotive. "Interlude" and "The Dolls' Tea Party" sound much more subdued in this bluegrass-y setup, but superb in their own right. The harmonies on "You Must Be Out of Your Mind?" Goddamn amazing.
Having only seen the band before on their Distortion tour, that is my only frame of reference. And, on that tour, the synth-lines from the older songs were mostly replaced by Mr. Davol's cello work. This year, though, they're touring with Ms. Gonson on electric keyboard, and I must admit this is a great improvement. Its presence allowed the band to perform songs like "Long Vermont Roads" and "Falling in Love With the Wolfboy," which seem (to me, at least) pretty unperformable without their synthetic sounds. It was a nice change of pace for the set lists to feature pre-69LS material so heavily.
Despite his reluctance to be so, Mr. Merritt is an amazing performer and seeing the band serves as a really brilliant emotional roller coaster. Of course, the fact that I have such a supreme emotional connection to this music probably serves as some sort of bias, to which I readily admit, but anyone who could have sat through any of the four shows I saw without being touched or moved in some way is likely not an emotional creature. Anyone familiar with his recorded work should already be familiar with the power of Mr. Merritt's voice has to make you connect with the emotion he's trying to convey, but live, it's just transcendent. Trans-fucking-scendent.
And, Ms. Shirley Simms singing "Suddenly, There's a Tidal Wave?" Yes, please. Hell, I mentioned the harmonies on "You Must Be Out of Your Mind" before, and that's something upon which I could expound all day. When Ms. Gonson, Ms. Simms, and Mr. Merritt sing together, magic occurs. I am not exaggerating.
Of course, I wept and wept, and with good reason; those of you who have seen The Magnetic Fields know what kind of experience it is; for those of you who haven't had the pleasure, know that it's simultaneously joyous, heartbreaking, life-changing, and resplendent. I've typed a small number of paragraphs and that is something that could never do the experience justice. Just go. Go. Go. Go.
I hope to have a post summarizing all the news I missed up before the end of the night. We shall see.