Field Music were formed in Sunderland in 2004 by brothers Peter and David Brewis. The band’s distinctive and innovative ‘indie prog-pop’ sound blends in a range of influences, from The Beatles, Pink Floyd and 10cc through to Steely Dan and Talking Heads. Their UK tour to promote new album, Making A New World, brought them to Glasgow’s majestic Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum on 1st February, as part of Celtic Connections. The songs on the album were originally commissioned by the Imperial War Museum in 2018 for a series of events marking the end of the First World War. Support was provided by Glasgow-based country/folk/Americana duo Tenement & Temple. Monica Queen’s pure and clear vocals and Johnny Smillie’s nimble guitar-picking were impressive.
The Field Music line-up for this tour was as per the new album, namely Peter Brewis (vocals and lead guitar), David Brewis (vocals and drums), Liz Corney (vocals, piano and organ), Kev Dosdale (rhythm guitar, synths and percussion) and Andrew Lowther (bass guitar). As Making A New World is a ‘concept album’ of songs and music reflecting on a range of political, social, medical, scientific and technological developments stemming from the aftermath of the First World War, the band played it straight through from start to finish, without a break, with the lead vocals shared between the Brewis brothers. A series of images and footage projected onto a screen above the band reflected the stories behind the songs.
The opening and closing instrumental passages and occasional transitions between songs were suitably atmospheric and played beautifully. The poignancy of the first song, Coffee Or Wine, concerning a soldier returning home after the war, was cleverly offset by looping rhythms and a searing guitar break. Passionate vocals and crisp guitar riffs were to the fore in Best Kept Garden, which told of a returning soldier’s pride at moving into a house in a brand new, purpose-built council housing estate in Essex. The gentle, lilting and bittersweet A Change Of Heir celebrated early pioneering work in plastic surgery and gender re-assignment. In contrast, the soaring harmonies, angular guitar, pulsing bass and driving drums on Do You Read Me? imagined the thoughts of a pilot experiencing air traffic control for the first time.
The last two songs in this part of the set were chock-full of funky riffs and irresistible choruses. Only In A Man’s World cleverly juxtaposed the early discovery that wound dressings could be developed as sanitary pads with the present-day pricing of women’s sanitary products making them unaffordable for those on low incomes or benefits. Money Is A Memory, meanwhile, provided a wry commentary on the massive amount of borrowing which Germany had to enter into to make the war reparation payments required by the Treaty of Versailles (incredibly, Germany made the last payment on debts related to these reparations as recently as 2010).
Stunningly executed as it was, playing the 42-minute long album from start to finish without a pause was a real test of concentration for the band and the audience. It was no surprise, then, when, to the delight of the audience, Field Music kicked back for a funky and fun romp through some favourites from their back catalogue for the remainder of their set. The versatile Brewis brothers swapped places at this point, with Peter behind the drum-kit and David on lead guitar. The highlights from this section included the vibrant Count It Up; a song from the 2012 album, Plumb, with Liz Corney shining on lead vocals; and Nobody Knows, a hilarious (and very funky) song from David Brewis’s solo project School of Language, in which the lyrics are drawn directly from Donald Trump tweets and sound-bites (“Nobody knows…better than me…”). As an encore, the band served up their 2016 single Disappointed, with its insanely catchy chorus, and sent the audience home very happy indeed.
Combining brilliant songs, superb musicianship and a real sense of fun, this gig saw Field Music at the very top of their game and underlining why many rate them as one of the finest bands in the UK.