Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields at First Avenue in Minneapolis Nov. 13. Photo by Claude Peck
The Magnetic Fields concert Tuesday at First Avenue featured the band in a five-piece ensemble, including Claudia Gonson (vocals, piano), Shirley Simms (vocals, 8-string ukelele), John Woo (acoustic guitar), Sam Davol (cello) and Stephin Merrit (vocals, pocket piano, with a few kazoo solos thrown in for good measure).
Singing was shared by songwriter Merritt, Gonson and Simms. Between-song chit-chat was of the deadpan, brainy and depressed variety.
Magnetic Fields opened with "Beach-a-Boop Boop," a rarely played song from deep in the group's back catalog that is on the "Obscurities" CD, from 2011. Also on that album is the gorgeous English folk tune-sounding "Plant White Roses," which Magnetic Fields featured early in the evening. At least a half-dozen songs were from the the group's "69 Love Songs," released in 1999. They played seven songs from the 2012 release, "Love at the Bottom of the Sea."
Here's the set list: Beach-a-Boop-Boop / I Die / A Chicken with Its Head Cut Off / Your Girlfriend's Face / Reno Dakota / Come Back from San Francisco / No One Will Ever Love You / I've Run Away to Join the Fairies / Plant White Roses / Drive On Driver / My Husband's Pied a Terre / Time Enough For Rocking / The Horrible Party / Smoke and Mirrors / Going Back to the Country / Andrew in Drag / Quick! / Busby Berkeley Dreams / Boa Constrictor / The Book of Love / Fear of Trains / You Must Be Out of Your Mind / Grand Canyon / Swinging London / It's Only Time / Smile! No One Cares How You Feel / (Encore) All My Little Words / /Forever and a Day