Magnetic Fields perform "69 Love Songs"

For two nights in a row, loads of folks made their journeys, some near and some far, through the blistering cold temperatures to witness Stephin Merritt and company perform all 69 Love Songs. Both nights sold out long ago at the classical-style Somerville Theater in the Boston area. On stage in addition to the four core musicians were the three guest singers who appear on the albums. For the first night I witnessed something rather unexpected.The performances seemed a bit sloppy, the songs perhaps unrehearsed enough, the sound was lacking and voices were flat all around. On top of that it seemed the audience was made up almost entirely of Beavis and Buttheads who would giggle every time a cuss word was uttered on stage. Unfortunately the first half of the 69 Love Songs (yes they were played in order of the 3xCD set) include many of my favorite songs. I enjoyed the first night's ending as Future Bible Heroes' synthesist and local yawn-worthy dj Chris Ewen walked out onto the stage and hit 'play' on the CD player, Stephin sang "Promises of Eternity" Karaoke style as the rest of the members of the group filed offstage individually. Very community-theatre. "How do they get away with it?" a friend of mine asked me, referring to the fact they can sell out two nights in a large capacity theater and perform like that. Shrugging my shoulders I pointed to the fact that the songs are easy to identify with and endearingly honest yet cynical. The second night however was a completely different story, it seemed as if everything magically fell into place. The performances were excellent, the sound was pefectly balanced and the group members were well-connected with the music and the audience. The folks on stage, who truly look like a family played well off each other and didn't rely exclusively on the strength of the songs themselves as much to carry the night. The performance didn't end with the last love song however. For an encore, the group came back on stage and did a wonderful rendition of John Cage's 4'33" although it seemed as if nobody in the audience knew it was a cover. Folks in London are lucky enough to get the treat, two performances (four nights) of all 69 Love Songs coming up in January. Hopefully the entire group will be in attendance.