NPR Music

Support Public RadioLogin

Live in Concert

The Magnetic Fields, Live In Concert: SXSW 2012

April 11, 2012 Those seeking pin-drop silence at SXSW usually have to reserve time in a sensory-deprivation chamber or a hotel bathroom, but The Magnetic Fields' hold on a live crowd is powerful enough to yield that rarest of sounds.

Those seeking pin-drop silence at SXSW usually have to reserve time in a sensory-deprivation chamber or a hotel bathroom, but The Magnetic Fields' hold on a live crowd is powerful enough to yield that rarest of sounds. Headlining NPR Music's SXSW day party — held Thursday at The Parish in Austin, Texas — the long-running band gave its first SXSW performance (that's first-ever, not just this year) with a set as subdued as it was warmly beautiful.

The Magnetic Fields' new album, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, is a charming set of witty trifles: synth-driven two-minute odes to doomed romances and small moments. But for this show, the band unplugged to a remarkable degree, complete with stand-up bass and acoustic guitars. Naturally, the new songs still shimmered and shone without the electronics, but The Magnetic Fields didn't skimp on the classics, either: "There'll Be Time Enough for Rocking When We're Old," "The Book of Love" and "It's Only Time" stood out among many highlights — as deadpan as they were poignant and fundamentally kind in spirit.

Of course, no one does kind, deadpan poignancy better than Stephin Merritt — even the banter between Merritt and Claudia Gonson teetered on the line between sweetness and hilarity. "I think all the songs in our set today are about unrequited love, or death, or both," Merritt said late in the show, and damned if he didn't have himself pegged. Which, in turn, makes The Magnetic Fields an uncommon chronicler of the most common and universal events life has to offer.

Highlights Above
  • "Chicken With Its Head Cut Off"
  • "Your Girlfriend's Face"
  • "Andrew In Drag"
  • "It's Only Time"
Credits

Producers: Amy Schriefer and Robin Hilton; Video by: XI Media; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

More Live in Concert

More Live in Concert
 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Podcast + RSS Feeds

Podcast RSS

  • Concerts
     
  • SXSW: Live From Austin