The Magnetic Fields delight in hometown return

The Magnetic Fields at the Somerville Theatre on February 15, 2008

, Contributing Writer

The Magnetic Fields played the Somerville Theatre on Thursday and Friday night to promote their new album Distortion, on Nonesuch Records.& While the venue necessitated a pared down version of their album cuts, the twenty-five song set list consisted of several re-worked songs from the new album as well as a selection from their well known three disc collection, 69 Love Songs.&

The tone of the new album is a sharp contrast to the live show experience.& Distortion plays as its name would predict – loud, fuzzy, and intense, while the set on Friday night was quiet, slow, and full of clarity.& What the live show lacked in distortion it more than made up in the band\’s signature comedic timing.& The cynical sarcasm of the lyrics combined with the interplay between Stephin Merritt and Claudia Gonson kept the audience laughing in a show that otherwise might have been mellow to a fault.

The dour mood that typically envelops Stephin Merritt was evident in his biting sarcasm and indifferent onstage attitude . However, placed within songs like "Papa Was A Rodeo", his downhearted and cynical crooning almost caused the audience physical agony as they connected with the lyrics. Merritt\’s delivery and the accompaniment of Gonson and Shirley Simms created a vocal overlap that was nothing short of impeccable.& &

Each song The Magnetic Fields showcased on Friday night was steeped in sentimentality and riddled with humor, playing like musical contradictions. Gonson\’s emotional strain and sadness was palpable as she sang "All My Little Worlds", and four songs later she showcased her humor in the lyric "Sober life is a prison/Shit-faced it is a blessing."& The Magnetic Fields are able to both depress and entertain you with their unique brand of dark humor.& Fan favorite "Drive On, Driver" sung by Simms and Gonson contrasted a beautiful, carefree melody with the somber tone of love come to an end.

While The Magnetic Fields lacked much of the sound they are on tour to support, their glass is half empty humor and vocal strength made this one of the best shows of the young year. The unanimous standing ovation from the crowd proves that with or without distortion this band has a loyal following that will only continue to grow.

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