Saturday, July 3rd, 2004
The Night You Can't Remember
It proved wise to start lining up for the Magnetic Fields show an hour and a quarter before the doors opened. There were just a handful of people sitting on the steps of the Trinity-St Paul’s United Church ahead of us, but within 15 minutes or so, a good-sized line-up of Toronto’s hipster elite (and some homeless people who were just hanging around) was stretched around the corner and down the street. It was a longer wait, but it was nice and warm out so there were certainly worse places to be. Paid off too, as when the doors open I snagged a fine second-row pew.
I knew nothing about opener Andrew Bird going in except that he played the violin… which was true, but a gross understatement of the man’s abilities. Though playing solo, he was like a one-man orchestra making use of a sampler to layer violin, guitar, glockenspiel and the most unearthly whistling you’ve ever heard. If you weren’t watching him do it, you’d swear it was a musical saw. Unbelievable whistling. He reminded me of Jeff Buckley live, in his songwriting style and stage presence and though he played a relatively short set, he certainly left a positive impression on me.
The Magnetic Fields trotted out onstage a little after 9:30 to great applause and seated themselves across the stage, Claudia Gonson on piano, John Woo on guitar and banjo, Sam Doval on cello and Stephin Merritt on ukelele. As expected, the set list drew heavily from their latest album i, but I think there was enough older material in the mix to satisfy the audience. Making good on their promise to play with minimal amplification, the set was very quiet and made good use of the church’s acoustics. Stephin and Claudia’s vocals and the cello sounded particularly rich and musical. Musically the performance was excellent, but the combination of the heat inside the church (and the band’s preoccupation with the heat), the quietness of the affair and dim lighting made for a cozier, dozier atmosphere than an exciting one. The band barely stirred from their seats except when Stephin got up to bring a fan onstage (an electric fan, not a concertgoer) and to fetch water for the audience (when someone requested beer, he wryly replied, “You can’t have alcohol in church – it just turns to blood”). Only when playing “Yeah, Oh Yeah!” in the encore did Stephin and Claudia get up and engage in some light theatrics, much to the delight of the crowd – not only because it was funny to watch, but because it was SOMETHING to watch. Anyway, that’s a minor complaint if a complaint at all. They’re wrapping up their short 11-show tour with a second Toronto show tonight and have promised a different set-list if anyone is tempted to go see them again. The lighting made photos difficult to take, even from my seat up-close, but I did what I could.
And so my “week of many concerts” comes to an end. Now if you glance over to the side, you will see I’ve gone from feast to famine, with barely anything on the schedule for the rest of the Summer. Which is fine, really – the Fall is almost certain to be an embaressment of riches, if the album release schedule is an indication.
Filter has a nice preview of the new Rilo Kiley album More Adventurous. The piece puts the release date as August 17, which is several weeks later than the July 27 date that had previously been floated around.
Today is Free Comic Book Day. Go to your local store and get some free comic books.
A shame about the passing of Marlon Brando. I have yet to see any of the early work with which he made his name, but won’t even attempt to argue his title of “Greatest actor of his generation”. I saw The Freshman, I know what he was capable of.
np – Sparklehorse / Distorted Ghost