Friday, 26 March 2010

View York: Wild Beasts, Evan Dando and the Magnetic Fields

Folks, it has been some time. As some of you may know, I have been in New York City for the past two and a half months interning at the United Nations. Unfortunately, the full-time work and full time social responsibilities endemic to New York have put the brakes on any music blogging. However, as I’m back in Brisbane, I can continue the usual ramble of meaningless thoughts on popular music.

New York is one of the best places to catch live music. Literally you can see a great band nearly every night of the week for a bargain price, something that in Brisbane, Australia, you may not be able to do. Side note: literally I’ve been overusing the word ‘literally’ to the point where I want to rip my tongue out. I blame a few of my New York compadres for covertly inserting it in my vernacular. Yeah, you know who you are!

I have a few gigs that I attended during my NYC visit that I wish to speak about. I already covered Jonathan Richman a few weeks ago, but I did manage to go see Wild Beasts, Evan Dando and The Magnetic Fields during this sojourn to Obama’s Revolutionary Empire.


Several weeks ago, my good pal Gabe got me to tag along to see an entertaining UK indie band Wild Beasts. What makes them particularly distinctive is Hayden Thorpe’s distinctive countertenor voice, something that is unusual in today’s modern ‘indie’ world. While unusual, I eventually grew used to Thorpe’s eunuch braying – it mixed well with the Morrisey-esque baritone of Tom Fleming.

Playing most of their sophomore record “Two Dancers” (which is quite good by the way), Wild Beasts meander their way through a range of dreamlike ballads that seem to revolve around working class subjects and working class people. As Gabe aptly pointed out, they evoke memories of Talking Heads. Unfortunately, at the time, I wasn’t familiar with their records, so cannot allude to the songs they played. However, the title of the concluding song is obvious, the band finishing with the delicious sing-along ballad suitably entitled 'Cheerio Chaps'.

In addition, I must point out that the support act Violins were also very enjoyable to watch. All in all, a very good night. (thanks Gabe!)


I managed to also catch Lemonheads alumni Evan Dando in an acoustic solo gig at the Mercury Lounge in Lower East side Manhattan onMArch 8th. There was a plethora of supports (well, three), a factor that pushed Dando to a late start. However, due to some technical and transport problems, Dando only manages to hit the stage circa midnight and proceeds to play a two hour plus set. Unfortunately, due to excesses the night before; I ended up struggling my way through most of this Dando’s late set.

I’ve seen Dando play with the Lemonheads during their reforming tour in Australia a few years back. I was a bit disappointed in that effort and I didn’t have high expectations for this performance. As it turns out, I needn’t have been so pessimistic. Dando plays a remarkably well paced set consisting mostly of Lemonheads songs, something that struck me as strange considering he didn't when he was performing with that actual band in the aforementioned Australian tour!.

Starting off with a beautiful rendition of 'The Outdoor Type', he reels his way through 'If I Could Talk', 'Big Gay Heart', 'Alison’s Starting to Happen', 'Tenderfoot' and a plethora of other classics, including my own personal favourite 'Down About It' from “Come on Feel the Lemonheads”. At the conclusion of 'My Drug Buddy', Dando reveals that the ‘King Street’ referred to in the song is not actually King Street in New York, nor London, but actually the King Street in Newtown, Sydney.

2.30am rolls around and Dando doesn’t look like he was going to stop anytime soon. My body forces me to leave – I *literally* could not keep my eyes open. As Dando begins a version of ‘Skulls’, I decide to head for home, completely satisfied.


For what seems like eons, I’ve always wanted to catch The Magnetic Fields in the live arena. They’ve just released what is a solid album, “Realism” (which I by far prefer to "Distortion"), concluding what is called Stephin Merrit’s no synth trilogy (I, Distortion, Realism).

The venue is Town Hall, just off Times Square, a beautiful theatre apt for hosting the Magnetic Fields. It’s a strictly no nonsense affair, the band lining up side by side, in a row across the stage. No out-and-out percussive instruments are on stage – Merrit has a condition that makes him sensitive to overly loud noise – the band utilises keys, guitar, cello and ukulele. Merrit plays the ukulele exclusively and runs through a setlist which features songs from much of the Magnetic Fields back catalog albeit with the songs in a more stripped back, non-produced format (obviously to accommodate only the instruments and voices on display).

I’m writing this a few weeks after the event and the setlist is hard to recall exactly. They do draw from their wide ranging back catalog, playing songs from "69 Love Songs", "I", "Realism", "Holiday", and "The Wayward Bus" amongst others. The highlights include 'Kiss Me Like You Mean It', 'I Don’t Really Love You Anymore', 'You, Me and the Moon', and my own personal favourite 'I Don’t Want to Get Over You'. The revel in a dose of humour, playing 'Wi’ Nae Wee Bairn Ye’ll Me Beget', which produces stifles of laughter from the appreciative audience. Without a doubt, the best song of the night is 'Fear of Trains' from "Charm of the Highway Strip".

Merritt has the reputation of being a sourpuss. He engages in some ‘banter’ with his fellow musician, his body language often insinuating they’re annoying, but its hard to tell if its genuine or not. Regardless, the show is quite brilliant, the crowd lapping up the stripped-down devotions to love and other related disasters. I leave, one happy chappy.

No comments: