Cover: Kelly Davidson Photography
Unless you were in a coma during the early 2000s, you’ll know Claudia Gonson as the alto counterpart to Stephin Merritt’s baritone in The Magnetic Fields. Merritt’s pretentious crooning to boy crushes was never my thing, particularly, but he did come up with a few classics among those 69 Love Songs. My favorite, “Papa Was a Rodeo,” is his ode to truck drivin’ and other forms of cruisin’. Gonson’s answer verse elevates it to greatness. So, I was pleased when I saw that their side project, Future Bible Heroes (minus Merritt), was on tour with a stop in Los Angeles.
At the Echoplex, synth heavy sounds predominated with opening sets by Meet the President and Luxury Liners. The Bible Heroes then came out, looking like the parents of the 20-somethings who’d just played, with volume and energy level coming down a notch, as well. Eventually, with the encouragement of their adoring LA fans, they found their groove, in a pleasing set characterized by solid musicianship and songwriting. Songs like “Drink Nothing but Champagne” kept the crowd in a partying mood. On that note, Gonson explained that the title track of their new record “Living, Loving, Partying” was taken from British novelist Henry Green [Henry Vincent Yorke].
Gonson is a mom now but still looks lovely. She’s an able front woman, sharing lead vocal duties with fellow Magnetic Fields alum Shirley Simms. Guitarist/vocalist Anthony Kaczynski and synthesist Christopher Ewen round out the drummer-less group. After a few years as critical darlings, they seem content doing what they’ve been doing all along. Their 80s synth pop sound was retro from the start. That sound, combined with Merrit’s literate confessional lyrics, is what set them apart. And they use a lot less eyeliner than the Human League whose “Don’t You Want Me” closed the set on a high note.