Published Feb 09, 2010For anyone who has never been, Toronto's Queen Elizabeth Theatre is arguably the best concert venue in the city, especially to see a show as centred solely around music, rather than style or stage antics, as that played by the Magnetic Fields.
Supporter Laura Barrett, whose set was self-described as "countrified glitch pop," came across as thoroughly likeable. ("You know what that sounds like," she said, no doubt paying homage to the Magnetic Fields.) Her accompanying troupe, which featured a flautist, a violinist and a multi-instrumentalist that switched between banjo and glockenspiel, were all obviously well-trained, and supported Barrett's wispy, mellifluous alto and tumbling mbira superbly. This, coupled with the band's charming stage banter, made their 40-minute set fly by.
The Magnetic Fields were similarly likeable, despite two of their three singers (Claudia Gonson and Stephin Merritt) being hampered by colds. The band soldiered on, playing songs all of the band's LPs since 1991, with the exception of 1994's Holiday, including Gonson-proclaimed "oldies but goodies" "You and Me and the Moon," "Falling in Love with the Wolfboy," "Fear of Trains" and show-closer "100,000 Fireflies." But, as was expected, the band drew their set mainly from their new LP Realism, including more delicate, less kitschy versions of tracks like "The Dolls' Tea Party" and "We Are Having a Hootenanny."
Unfortunately, there were times when the band, Merritt especially, seemed just detached enough from the proceedings to lose the audience. Even the typically chipper Gonson could be seen sitting back in her chair apathetically, lazily stretching her arm to hit the right keys on her keyboard. Though, it might have been her cold, which also noticeable affected her singing voice.
Nonetheless, the Magnetic Fields put on a show that was well-paced, with a well-curated set list that was punctuated by the witty banter you can only get from longtime friends.
And, incidentally, you'll never know how much you appreciate a mid-show, 15-minute "intermission" until you get one.