Fields - The Glee Club, Birmingham
I first experienced Fields as a support band to Editors in early 2006. Their talent was evident but, as is the case with many a support band, the punters (myself included) were too busy fetching in the drinks and catching up with friendly gossip to really pay attention. My impression of the band after the gig was that of a laid-back and summery troupe... which blatantly goes to show, if the only thing you truly acknowledge about a band is their name, how off-course you can actually get. I'd heard the word 'Fields' and, due to my pre-Editors cider-guzzling ignorance, jumped to some very wrong conclusions. It's a good job I got to see them then, in all of their rich but dark splendour, at the Glee Club.
One is told upon entering the venue that tonight is a standing gig, a bit of a jolt considering the Glee usually has its patrons seated. Having heard the debut album Everything Last Winter, this break from tradition seems apt. Fields are not a sit-down band. They are a band who make a bit of an effort, adorning their set with plastic crows and owls, the mood-setting props adding a further dimension to their already atmospheric music. When the five-piece emerge on stage, ready to blow the cobwebs away with the bruised guitars of If You Fail, We All Fail, you're in no doubt that this is a band that means business.
The London-based quintet are made up of four blokes and secret weapon, Thorunn Antonia, who plays keyboard and backs up singer/guitarist Nick Peill on most numbers. They certainly make use of Antonia's little-gal-lost vocals, trading in the same harmony-powered folk as Magic Numbers on the serene You Don't Need This Song (To Fix Your Broken Heart). Elsewhere, the comparison to Romeo Stodart and co. is redundant - unless, that is, you describe Fields as Magic Numbers possessed by the devil. And I think I may do just that.
Feathers and recent single Charming the Flames encompass Fields' 'sound', the band turning what could be very genteel and sparse folk numbers into psychedelic and melancholy rockers. The white noise of My Bloody Valentine guitars and Henry Spenner's thrashing drums is often malevolent, proving a successor to Howling Bells' dark and cinematic vision. Even their most radio-friendly song, the catchy You Brought This On Yourself, is a bitter-sweet ode to lost love, heavy on the bitter and with just a smidgen of sweet: 'If you think that you've been left on the shelf, know that you brought this all onto yourself... You're eighteen and you're dumb, you still don't know just what is to come'. It's all a bit serious but you can just tell every band member is throwing themselves into the breach, making the songs all the more heartfelt and genuine in the process; their performance is well-oiled, ne'er a slip-up in sight. Although Peill's emotive voice and charisma make him a solid frontman, Antonia's sweet voice and quiet mystique means she is the perfect foil. I mean, for crying out loud, she even pulls out accordions and tambourines on certain numbers!
The highlight of the gig comes when the band perform their final two songs. Song for the Fields, with its repeated hook of 'You're not the only one', is a formidable six-minute prog-playground of ideas. However, the loudest song of the night is what Fields choose to close on, as if to quell the misconception that they're soft. The Death is huge, as dramatic as VAST but with a blacker heart. The moment when the music stops for a brief three second interval, before the song's high-drama musical epilogue returns in full force (flashy light show accompanying), is one of those goosebump-inducing one-offs. It's the perfect closer to an electric evening of glorious tunes that didn't turn out to be so 'sunny' after all.
Oh, and don't ask me about the support band. I was on the rosé...