Field Music


It’s another dark and rainy night in the back streets of Salford. Islington Mill is packed, Marc Riley (#saveBBC6music) is here and there’s a buzzing atmosphere.

The filler CD fades down and is replaced by what sounds like a secret sample recording from an empty concert hall. A note is occasionally struck on a piano and brief conversations can be heard through the crackling. Field Music take to the stage amongst a warm reception, as a xylophone plays a happy version of The Exorcist theme tune.

Once they’ve found their instruments they launch into ‘Give it, Lose it, Take it’ with its stop-start guitar chords, economic bass lines and stuttering and inventive drumbeat. Peter Brewis seems reluctant to remain behind his drum kit, adjusting microphones and setting up percussion as the set continues. His brother David sings vocals and plays guitar hidden behind one pillar as the other three congregate around another. A colourful film of what looks like a kaleidoscope, shone through a pair of glass bricks, is projected on the chalky white back wall.

Current single, ‘Them That Do Nothing’ is played early on with a harmonic sound, reminiscent of The Beach Boys or Crowded House. There’s a positive vibe here with clever song structures that keeps you on your toes. The sound is crystal clear, the between song banter from the mackems is playful and friendly; they don’t take themselves too seriously at all. The rhythm guitarist apologises to anyone that he may have pushed past to get to the stage in time.

After a false start and some joking around, they play ‘Measure’ with vocals like Jeff Buckley or Paul McCartney and sampled strings that could also have come from an Abbey Road album session. The gig takes a bluesy turn, also similar to late Beatles material, mixed with The Who and The Jam.

Things get decidedly ROCK with ‘Each Time Is A New Time’, another tune from their latest album, ‘Measure’. Instruments come and go, the guitar sparkles alone with a catchy riff before the funky bass line and drums chip in again. We’re told the tune had the working title “Kravitz” and indeed turned out to be something of a rock anthem in parts. Judging by the crowd’s reaction they agree with me that that was the gigs highlight.

‘Clear Water’ is another strong rock tune with backing vocals from “Who Are You” (The Who) replaced by the song title. Older singles are warmly greeted by the crowd, but fail to be as catchy and as inventive as the new material.

The set eventually loses the enthusiasm of the first half. Onstage antics continue with in jokes, at one point David appears to be laughing at his own lyrics. It becomes a guessing game as to whether a tune has stopped or not. They pause, someone in the crowd starts a woop or clap and they go back to play a reprise.

It’s all harmless fun. David switches from guitar to piano. ‘A House Is Not A Home’ starts the inevitable encore and sounds like another fun Beatles track ‘Mean Mr. Mustard’. An appropriate mood with which to round of an enjoyable and amusing, light-hearted experience.

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Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.