Magnetic Fields

The Magnetic Fields’s most recent album is a noisy affair called Distortion. The concept this time out is laid out in the title, as if Stephin Merritt had dreams of being a rock star. Unfortunately, it’s a little at odds with Merritt’s beautiful, clean melodies.

Tonight at the Fonda Music Box theater, The Magnetic Fields played two lovely sets and an encore, with minimal amplification and no distortion to be found (short of some brilliant emulated feedback on Daniel Handler’s accordion).

They did not ignore the new album; instead, they played a number of songs from it in the traditional Magnetic Fields style, and it was a revelation. Bouzouki, cello, acoustic guitar, piano, and the occasional accordion. It was like hearing the songs for the first time, and they were lovely.

The show was excellent. Stephin and Claudia’s banter was amusing, and Daniel Handler was hilarious. The tragic irony of the night was that Stephin Merritt seemed to be having some trouble with his left ear and was pained by the enthusiastic applause after each song. He must thrive on the validation of the audience, but for it to physically hurt him must have been awful.

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