Those who had braved the icy pavements of east London to be part of an appreciative audience in a very small, very warm corner of Hoxton were treated to a glimpse of one of the most under-appreciated indie bands of recent times. Since their formation in Sunderland six years ago, Field Music have been relatively overlooked while their musical cousins (and sometime collaborators) The Futureheads and Maxïmo Park have rocketed to stardom.
Taking cheerfully to the stage, the group dive into "Give It, Lose It, Take It", the opening song from their critically lauded 2007 album, Tones Of Town. With faultless vocal harmonies, a jerky guitar refrain in a time signature as slippery as the streets outside and a keyboard fill that recalls computer-game music of the 16-bit era, it betrays a dizzying mixture of influences. This is an evening marked by admirable eclecticism.
Field Music are the first to admit that their live performances provide new interpretations of the complex multi-instrumentalism which makes their records so interesting – they once described themselves as their own covers band. But the relative nakedness of the songs they perform tonight as a conventional four-piece reveals the pop simplicity which underpins much of their material. "A House Is Not A Home", without the sweeping strings which give its recorded incarnation an air of "Eleanor Rigby", is exposed as a jumpy, guitar-led slice of relationship paranoia. The forthcoming single "Them That Do Nothing" recalls the Kinks in the best way possible, in its straightforward and disarmingly catchy pop with an acerbic twist.
If there were space for it, the elephant in the room would be the two-year hiatus which has seen the band work on individual projects such as School of Language and The Week That Was, a break which has ended with this tour and the release of a new album, Measure, next month. It is good to see that the band have turned the time off to their advantage – they drop the excellent "Rockist", from David Brewis's solo output, between material from the band's self-titled debut. David is one of the brothers who formed the band (the other is Peter) but a famously flexible line-up sees them joined tonight by the excellent Kevin Dosdale on guitar and Ian Black on bass. Black's instrumental ability is matched by the charisma of the bons mots he deploys in moments of tuning or instrument-swapping. Charmingly, the band are their own roadies.
As Field Music complete their encore and step down into the cheering crowd – the venue has no backstage area – here in trendy Hoxton Square the audience look more like members of up-and-coming guitar bands than the pleasant, unassuming individuals who have just finished their set. But after the performance they have delivered, Field Music deserve to be marked out from the crowd. With a little luck – and weather permitting – 2010 could be their year.