Two Nights with The Magnetic Fields

I’m a longtime fan of The Magnetic Fields — it all started with 69 Love Songs, thanks to my dad.  Monday and Tuesday of this week, my parents, sister, and I attended the two-night 50 Song Memoir show at Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse.

This was our second time seeing The Magnetic Fields in concert; our first show was at the Atlanta Symphony Hall in 2008.  I loved everything about that show.  I loved the simplicity of the performance and the choice to perform at such a venue.  It was just the band and their instruments in this giant hall.  The Variety Playhouse offered a smaller and different, but similarly simple, experience.

The stage design was ornate, with childhood mementos all over the place, but everything else about the shows was simple.  With no opening acts, the shows were made up of two 45-minute sets, split up by a 15-minute intermission.  (During both nights’ intermissions, the the entire band changed clothes, which seemed a little silly to me, but whatever.)  A screen above the stage showed visuals for each song, which kept things interesting and tied in some visual storytelling.

The album itself is a bit more subdued than the live performances — the studio recordings lack some of the weird sounds and the impact of back-up vocals, both of which make seeing The Magnetic Fields live so much fun.  Even so, here are a few of my favorites.

From night one:

  • ’68 A Cat Called Dionysus
  • ’71 I Think I’ll Make Another World
  • ’76 Hustle 76
  • ’77 Life Ain’t All Bad
  • ’86 How I Failed Ethics

From night two:

  • ’01 Have You Seen It In The Snow?
  • ’08 Surfin’
  • ’11 Stupid Tears
  • ’12 You Can Never Go Back to New York
  • ’13 Big Enough for Both of Us
  • ’14 I Wish I Had Pictures

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