Field Music, Cutaways, Elspeth
I wasn't alone in my surprise when it was announced that the much vaunted Field Music were to play the Pavilion on Belfast's Ormeau Road, a venue one would normally expect to see any number of local bands on a slightly questionable bill. But praise should be given where it's due; as a venue, it's a little different, got good sound (in the right hands), a great beer garden, and it's small enough to engage with bands.
Walking into the venue, Newry/Belfast 5 piece Elspeth are already on stage. The gorgeous Nick Drake-ish lullaby 'Songs For Goodbyes' was what I knew Elspeth for best before this gig, but I quickly learnt that was not indicative of their sound, which instead harks back to 90s indie rock, with Jeff Buckely, Manics and earlyish Radiohead influences.
There's definitely something very promising about the relatively new band, and perhaps if they hone their craft a bit more, trying not to let an overly self-conscious stage presence get in the way of their songs, next time more people will be forced to take note.
Cutaways, on the other hand, have been practicing their indie pop stylings in various forms for years. And they're a band that returns time and time again with better material. Over the last few months they've been trying out some new songs live, and that they already seemed to have burned themselves into this reviewer's subconscious can only be a good sign.
It's a solid, if not their most memorable, performance from a band that continue to mature and develop their sound into something truly their own, but tonight is really all about Field Music. It's probably fair to say the Sunderland band (with brothers David and Peter Brewis) are something of a "musician's band"; complex harmonies, strange rhythms and twisty song structures excite those who understand, and alienate those who don't care. So it's not surprising that the great crowd that has turned out tonight seem to be ready to shut up, listen and nerd out a bit.
Straight away they open the set with 'Give It, Lose It, Take It', and within seconds we know we're in for a treat tonight. Despite issues with monitors, and David Brewis declaring he'll just have to guess the harmonies, out front we really can't hear many problems.
The two brothers seamlessly swap places and instruments, making the whole set flow past without realizing they've actually played for ages. Mixing in older material such as 'If Only the Moon Were Up' with material from their recently released double album, they even managed to fit in a few songs by School of Language (David Brewis band during the Field Music hiatus). And generally they just made jaws drop throughout the set.
They leave the stage to the biggest cheers I've ever heard in the Pavilion, and return to play just one more tune. In truth, the crowd would have taken another half hour easily. Simply, a great gig.