The Magnetic Fields

SXSW Showcase Reviews

Live Shots
Photos by Sandy Carson

The Magnetic Fields

ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Friday, March 16

The Moody Theater may never be so quiet again. When the Magnetic Fields took the stage and began its intricate indie pop, the audience sank into a respectful hush. The crowd stayed reverent during the entire 75-minute set as the veteran Bostonians played a mix of older crowd favorites and tight, new tunes from their latest album, Love at the Bottom of the Sea. Known for its gorgeously orchestrated and grand artistic pop songs, the quintet delivered just that, using everything from pianos and cellos to kazoos and ukulele. All eyes were on the stage, of course, but the show's production was minimalist, just the band playing and smiling. Singer/pianist Claudia Gonson hid behind her piano most of the night, coming into view only to use her sharp, clear voice to sing "Reno, Dakota." Ringleader Stephin Merritt isn't exactly the most expressive performer, but somehow this seriousness made his booming, droll voice all the more powerful. His stage banter was filled with deadpan quips: "This song is called 'Come Back From San Francisco.' It's about someone who left for San Francisco." There often seemed to be tension between Merritt and Gonson, including a short onstage argument about a song meaning, but the string players kept smiling and the acoustics were impeccable.

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