The shows were in the Carolina Theatre in Durham and were on a Tuesday and Wednesday night, so we ended up taking a week’s vacation, doing a bit of traveling, and spent the other half of the week last week with our pals in Efland, Elisa and Tom. The theatre was a restored Beaux Arts venue built in 1926 and probably free of the dreaded “rock cooties” so decried by our heroes Sparks. Our seats were about halfway back the first night, but the sight lines in the venue were perfectly clear. The show began promptly at 8 p.m. and Stephin Merritt stepped out onto the stage and sat on the stool he’d occupy for the length of both shows.
The stage, as seen above, was whimsical in keeping with the personal events and situations that drove the conceit of a song written about each of the first 50 years of Merrit’s life. It looked like a candy-color toybox of false jollity that created frissons of irony when being the setting for Merrit’s often mordant and droll tales of what he’s had to endure thus far in this life. I suspect that it was also a functional stage set. Merritt has hyperacuisis syndrome, so the plexiglas barriers in the stage set, isolated him acoustically from the rest of the musicians. The band were arrayed behind the set and they furthermore had plexiglas acoustic isolation screen between each other. The players were as if they were in a studio, rather than a live setting. This served to make the instrumentation of the songs as clear as a bell. This was a show that was a joy and delight to the ear.
Next: …Figures on a Stage