English with a pinch of Icelandic, Fields finished up their U.S. tour on Saturday, May 19th at New York’s Mercury Lounge with a powerful, encompassing performance. Iceland’s always punched above its weight in alternative music, from the very alt-singer/spirit Björk, to hometown heroes Sigur Rós, and when you combine that with the ultimate punch-above-its-weight nation, Great Britain, you get the kind of indie band that would spark a bidding war among major U.K. labels, or play for an absolutely psyched Big Apple crowd. Atlantic might have been the winner of label battle, but the audience was the winner at Mercury Lounge (QRO venue review).
For most of their time in the states, Fields had been opening up on Blonde Redhead’s 23 tour, but the band was also touring their own album, Everything Last Winter (QRO review), and at Mercury Lounge, they got a chance to be the big name on the card. Fields opened with one of the three choice singles from Winter, “If You Fail We All Fail”, which had a virtual aurora effect on the crowd, drawing them in with an almost ‘Wall of Sound’-meets-shoegaze quality. However, Fields did not stick strictly to that record, as early in the set, they managed to play “Brittlesticks” and “Isabel”, from their 2006 self-titled EP. Also, another Winter single was intermingled among the Fields tracks, “Feathers”, a more steady, straightforward song, but one of their best at displaying the harmonized vocals of Nick Peill and Þórunn Antonía. Putting earlier material early in the set wasn’t the ‘safe’ choice, and might not have worked for a more casual fan, but Fields were playing to anyone but the casually interested.
Still, Fields’ show definitely took an upswing in its second half, starting with Winter’s “Schoolbooks”, but that wasn’t just because they played more recent songs (indeed, just after “Schoolbooks”, there was an excellent short song, which wasn’t immediately recognizable as being from either record). A major boon to the set’s latter portion was the between-song chatter of drummer Henry Spencer. In a thick, almost quintessentially ‘lower class Brit’ accent (the kind heard on PBS Brit-soaps, not Masterpiece Theatre), he had a number of funny asides, from dedicating one song to “anyone who’s ever been to Katz’s” (the delicious old-school Jewish sandwich-diner that’s a block away from Mercury Lounge) and sauerkraut, to detailing how Antonía had gotten pneumonia the previous time they’d played Mercury: it had been Halloween, and Antonía had gone out all night for Greenwich Village’s famed Halloween Parade, in a (fake) blood-soaked wedding dress.
Accompanying Spencer’s commentary were strong tracks like “Schoolbooks”, and the show’s best three pieces, “Charming The Flames”, “Song For The Fields”, and “The Death”. “Charming”, the most recent single off of Winter, was probably the most touching number of the night, as it grew from a sweet duet into a warm force of nature. “For The Fields” was easily the crowd favorite (unsurprisingly, as it is was their first single, off of Fields, and versions of it open both records), and with probably their clearest opening lyrics and guitar licks, it had everyone going nuts before the piece turned from acoustic to electric. Finisher “The Death” rocked hard right from the get-go, with a darker nature, but it couldn’t exhaust the fervent crowd from shouting, “One more song! One more song!”
Those shouts did point out the one flaw in Fields’ set: they only played for about forty-five minutes. Of course, they started on the later side of midnight, but that meant very little to excited masses there to listen. On Everything Last Winter, Fields were able to put together a lot of strains of Brit-rock, and their set at Mercury Lounge could likewise unite hyper college kids who you can’t believe are twenty-one with suburban mook-rockers doing air riffs and shaved-headed Anglo-Celtic soccer hooligans (one could just lay that all to Antonía’s beauty, but there was a wide number – and similarly wide spectrum – of women at the show, too). What’s more, the Atlantic-in-more-ways-than-one band seemed to feed off that, from Spencer’s quips to bassist Matty Derham’s jumping and moving, all making an excellent performance and an excellent night.