Magnetic Fields Gig – London Queen Elizabeth Hall 25/7/2000

Click here for some photos I took

Well, I’m still recovering from what has to be one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. It was also cool meeting up with ukma lurker Paul Speller who’s promised to post his own mini-review if I post one first. It’s hard to know where to start.

The Queen Elizabeth Hall was rammed and there was a strange atmosphere, like we were all waiting for Jesus rather than a pop band. On stage was a grand piano, synth, electric cello and a couple of amps. Stephin, Claudia, Sam and John ambled onstage and the music began… How can such a sparse, delicate live setup be so emotive? Yeah, they’re all great instumentalists and Claudia and Stephin both have the voices of angels but there was something magical about the gig. It’s that hair-raising-on-the-back-of-your-neck moment that you only get at those gigs you know you’ll remember for your lifetime.

When Claudia sang ‘Acoustic Guitar’ with only John’s electric as accompaniment I kept thinking, ‘This can’t work live, although it’s great on the record.’ But it did, beautifully. The yearning melody stretched across the audience and we all held our breaths, not wanting to crush it. Even the pissed-up heckler cunt who’d tried to ruin the start of the gig with his hilarious “Cheer up!” jibes had stumbled off somewhere.

I won’t run through all the songs because they did play from 8.45 till about 10.30 and even that didn’t seem long enough. It was all stuff from ’69 Love Songs’ apart from when they did ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ from ‘Get Lost.’ One of the highlights was a bawdy rendition of ‘The Night You Can’t Remember’ with Claudia and Stephin waving what looked like champagne glasses at each other and *having fun*. I hate it when people caricature MF as being glum. These must be the same people who miss out on the humour of Leonard Cohen and just go with the party line that he’s “depressing.”

‘Papa Was A Rodeo’ gave us Stephin at his gravelly-voiced best. I can honestly admit that I’m hugely jealous of the bastard for being able to sing like that. I know that MF have got good reviews for the new album and the media are slowly coming round but I won’t be happy till they’re in the proper charts at number one. The songs deserve it.

When ‘I Don’t Believe In The Sun’ rolled out, it felt like hearing some Motown or Nashville classic, you can’t quite believe this is a new pop song from a band that’s largely unknown. You’re singing along (quietly) like you’ve known this song all your life. That’s pop. The same goes for when Stephin sang ‘The Book Of Love.’

I can’t imagine anyone else commanding the audience like he did with this song live. It’s archetypal MF: funny, sad, hopeful and hopeless at once and he connected with the audience immediately. There were a lot of people there who’d never heard the songs before (you could tell from the laughs at certain lyrics) and they were hooked.

I’m gonna cut it short here before my review just degenerates into gibbering worship. This gig was one of the highs of my life. The only downside is that I’m now very down. I’m questioning if anything I’m doing musically is worth doing. And feeling very envious of MF as a *band*. Yeah, Stephin’s songs are great but it’s also John, Sam and Claudia. I think they’re incredibly lucky to have found each other, god knows in 18 years of doing music I’ve never found *one* musician I’ve got on with that well, let alone three.

Ah well… anyone need their windows cleaning?

love and kisses,
Jyoti