The last time we saw Field Music headline a gig was two years ago in Brighton, just after the release of their ambitious double album Field Music (Measure). Despite critical acclaim for the album, lack of ticket sales meant they were shifted to a smaller venue. Even then it was still barely half full.
Two years on and with a shorter but no less ambitious album to promote, called Plumb, they are back on the road. For whatever reason, perhaps better PR, perhaps more consistent airplay (particularly on BBC 6Music) the tour has been a sell-out, with their gig at Bristol’s The Fleece no exception.
Even though their star is rising, at heart they are still a small band, which gave their hour long set a warmth that was full of good humour and self-deprecating banter such as “this one’s from our first album, which about five people bought.”
For those unfamiliar with the band its core is brother David, the tall one with a high voice, and Peter, the shorter one. The pair alternate between drums and guitar, and in Peter’s case keyboards as well.
Their music is breathtaking and bold, mixing styles from across the last 30 years with one fan at the front putting it succinctly saying, “they have taken all the music I like such as King Crimson, XTC, Talking Heads and Television, put it together and put their own stamp on it.”
For tonight’s set they crammed in a mammoth 22 tracks, showcasing the bulk of Plumb in two to three song bursts and punctuated with tracks across their previous three albums and Peter’s solo album under the name School of Language.
It was a well worked idea, with the older tracks giving the gig a greatest hits feel, with tracks such as Them That Do Nothing and Let’s Write a Book, from Measure, as well as If Only the Moon Were Up from their self-titled debut actually getting some whoops from the packed Fleece.
Plumb opener, Start the Day Right, with Peter seated at keyboards was a perfect start to the gig and the evening’s first Plumb segment, especially as it was followed by School of Language’s standout track Rockist (Part 1). Plumb is a great album to hear live, full of short guitar solos, harmonies and jerky shifts in mood. New Town was particularly effective as was their closing track and the album’s first single (I just keeping about) A New Thing. Back for an encore and track number 23 they choose another “ancient one”, from their debut album, Tell Me, Keep Me with its thudding bass intro.
“This is our first headline gig in Bristol,” David beamed, “unless of course you count the one we did at a record shop.” Judging by the growth in their popularity in the last two years an even bigger venue beckons when they hopefully return out west in 2014.
Support was from Stealing Sheep, a band that took the packed Fleece by surprise. As the band took the stage there was no hint that we were about to witness quite frankly the best support act I have ever seen. Wholly original, mixing pounding drums, surf guitar and keyboards I’ve debated long and hard how to describe this three piece’s music. In the end I’ve come up with this, so let’s see how this works. If Quentin Tarentino were to make a movie about the band Pentangle and cast Nancy Sinatra as the folk super group’s lead singer Jacqui McShee the soundtrack would sound something like Stealing Sheep. Ok, it’s not perfect, but the message I want to get out loud and clear is that this is a band you must see live.
They tell us an album is out this summer and judging by its first single Shut Eye it’s going to be exceptional. David Brewis joked during their set that they will be supporting Stealing Sheep in a few years time, “that’s if they’ll have us” replied Peter with trademark Field Music self-deprecation.
by Joe Lepper
See Also: Field Music (Measure) reviewed. The album topped our 2010 end of year album list and was named in our top 100 albums of all time list.