Southampton’s Engine Rooms isn’t the first place you’d think to put a band like Sunderland’s Field Music; their easygoing indie pop sound and down-to-earth performance would be best exhibited somewhere with a sense of close-up intimacy, rather than a cavernous shed resembling a scaled-down arena.
Not that it matters when the Brewis brothers – David and Peter (who share both frontman and drummer duties, swapping over every few songs) flanked by six members of their backing band – dive into ‘Time in Joy’. Field Music have brought that closeness with them – it’s impossible not to feel snug and enveloped in their rich, warm sound, impossible not to feel some kind of connection to songs this immediately familiar. The band sound excellent, with keyboards, auxiliary percussion, saxophone and flute filling out their sound with all the delicately arranged layers of their studio recordings.
“There’s no flashy showmanship or rock-star posturing”
Field Music’s sound is hard to pin down: ‘Time in Joy’, the opener of their new LP Open Here begins with a slow-building crescendo, synthesised strings adding a sense of grandeur to a repetitive drum figure, before it bursts into a groove that’s as Jethro Tull as it is danceable, busy flute figures dancing around a funky guitar riff. There’s a lot of these juxtapositions in style tonight: Field Music songs often sound like forgotten classics from any number of eras: pastoral harmonies that recall the Beatles or the Beach Boys, Steely Dan-style 70s soft rock, and a synth-laden stomper in new single ‘Count it Up’. That song gets one of the biggest reactions of the night, and it’s easy to see why: as well as boasting a righteous hook, the lyrics deal with the privileges of being born white, with access to education and work, in a way that doesn’t feel like a holier-than-thou performance of wokeness, but a gentle reminder to be empathetic to others.
The band play several other songs from Open Here tonight, including the rollicking ‘No King No Princess’, a song about David Brewis wanting his daughter to aspire to be something less “passive and boring” than a princess. Each stands up played alongside the highlights from their considerable back catalogue, such as ‘Disappointed’, and ‘It’s Not the Only Way to Feel Happy’, which brings the night to a fantastic close.
Field Music gigs are as uplifting and inviting as their music is. There’s no flashy showmanship or rock-star posturing, just jokes about how much better the Metro Centre is than Southampton’s shopping centre and technical mishaps involving whammy bars. We need more bands like this, who are smart and funny and play music that both has flutes and makes people want to dance, and tonight is an all-around victory from one of the UK’s best indie bands.
Words by – Joe Gilbertson @beekeepxr