“I usually hate writing autobiographical songs,” Merritt said after finishing his opening number, “but autobiography need not be the same thing as truth.” Like all numbers in the program, “Wonder Where I’m From” was true to its name, setting the “mystery tour” tone of the evening as Merritt quickly shifted from a scene in St. Thomas where barefoot beatniks walked, to Yonkers, where a tiny baby is born.

“Yes, I was young once,” he said with a charmingly self-aware sense of ambivalence. “It’s not actually true, though, that I was conceived by barefoot beatniks. My mother actually owned shoes.”

Later on in the program, when Merritt revealed how he and his mother had figured out he’d lived in 33 places in 23 years, the rapid real-life scene changes not only fed into his fascination with numbers; they illuminated his personal trajectory. Merritt got spiritual with the idea early on, as “Come Back as a Cockroach” evoked images of Kafka’s Metamorphosis while the video screen spun a psychedelic rendering of the Tibetan Wheel of Life. - [The Observer]

Stephin Merritt had the NYC debut of his highly ambitious/autobiographical Magnetic Fields album, 50 Song Memoir last weekend as part of BAM's Next Wave Festival. Across two nights (songs 1-25 on Friday; songs 26-50 on Saturday), Stephin Merrit played all 50 songs (one for each of Merritt's first 50 years) with the help of six other musicians, using 50 instruments, props, animation and more, against a whimsical, theatrical stage set. Merritt told stories in between songs, making the nights all the more special. Photos from night 1 (12/2) are in the gallery above. The setlist is below, along with streams of five songs off the upcoming album, and you can check out a PDF of the BAM program here.

The Magnetic Fields will tour 50 Song Memoir in 2017, playing two-night stints much like they did at BAM. Dates are here.

SETLIST: The Magnetic Fields @ BAM 12/2/2016

Wonder Where I'm From
Come Back as a Cockroach
A Cat Called Dionysus
Judy Garland
They're Killing Children Over There
I Think I'll Make Another World
Eye Contact
It Could Have Been Paradise
My Mama Ain't
Hustle 76
Life Ain't All Bad
The Blizzard of '78
Rock 'n' Roll Will Ruin Your Life
London by Jetpack
How to Play the Synthesizer
Happy Beeping
Foxx and I
Why I Am Not a Teenager
How I Failed Ethics
At the Pyramid
Ethan Frome
The 1989 Musical Marching Zoo
Dreaming in Tetris


photos by Greg Cristman

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