Expectations were high when we arrived in Copenhagen on Saturday 2nd October, with the sole purpose of seeing Stephen Merritt and his bandmates perform their wonderful songs at the Store Vega (which means "Great Vega") venue.
As there had been no talk of an opening act, I was quite surprised to see that the first band to walk onto the stage wasn't The Magnetic Fields. No, instead it was The Real Tuesday Weld, a band which normally just consists of Stephen Coates from London. For this tour he had, however, assembled a band of four sharply dressed men, including one playing the clarinet. To kick their part of the evening off, they showed two animated videos on a big screen. The second one, 'Bathtime in Clerkenwell', is quite funny and is accompanied by a a song that makes you tap your feet even if you try not to. You can watch it at the band's website at www.tuesdayweld.com. The gig was quite good too, with Coates acting like a cross between Jarvis Cocker and Suggs(of Madness, and sounding like a cross between the very same Cocker and Martin Rossiter from Gene. Their live sound is nothing like they sound on record, at least not if 'Bathtime in Clerkenwell' is somewhat representative of them. But I enjoyed the concert, and I think they have gained a few new fans in Denmark too.
After a short break, the four piece Magnetic Fields stepped up to the stage, and sat down, just like us in the audience, which is something quite unusual in the indiepop scene. The good thing about it is that you can rest your feet and your back, the bad thing is that you can't move away if you happen to be seated next to, or behind, a guy that is smoking like a chimney. Which is what happened to me, if you might not have guessed it already. Claudia Gonson, the pianist and sometimes singer of the Magnetic Fields, also remarked on this early on, saying that they couldn't see the audience because of all the smoke, but she was sure that we were out there somewhere. Actually, I could go on and on about the lack of respect shown by people who smoke in public places, but I won't. This is supposed to be a live review, and so it will be. But still... it can make a great experience turn into a big mess of coughs.
I would be lying if I said that I have been listening a lot to Stephen Merritt's music before this concert. Sure, I have the '69 Love Songs' album, and also the latest one, ''I', but that's it. So, even though I have enjoyed listening to these records, I was a bit afraid that I might not recognise all the songs this evening, but the truth is that I did know almost all the songs they played, so hats off to the band for choosing the right songs! Naturally, they played a heap of songs from the just mentioned triple-CD '69 Love Songs', with the highlights being 'Papa Was A Rodeo', 'Chicken With It's Head Cut Off' and the fantastic'Yeah! Oh Yeah' which was played as an encore, with Gonson and Merritt leaving their seats for the first and last time during the show.
They also found the time to play some older songs, as their albums released prior to '69 Love Songs' will be re-released in Europe quite soon (it might already have happened now...), and 'All The Umbrellas In London''" was as good a crowd-pleaser as any.
It was really fascinating to see that these four musicians,who played the piano, acoustic guitar/banjo, cello and ukulele, were able to re-create the music from the records in such a great manner, and to hear Stephen's fantastic, deep voice live. If I wasn't a big fan before this gig, I sure am now!