Live Review: School of Language at Manchester Deaf Institute – 28th April 2014

By on Wednesday, 30th April 2014 at 2:00 pm

Editor’s note: as our head photographer Martin was at the School of Language show in Newcastle earlier this month, I invite to view his photos in his review here as well.

There’s something very special about seeing a gig in Manchester. Monday night also happened to be a very special night in Manchester for David Brewis, usually better known as the drumming half of Field Music but on this particular evening, the frontman and the centre of attention under the name of his solo project School of Language. Having released his second album ‘Old Fears’ earlier this month (see my review of the excellent album here), he’d played a string of dates in the UK, but it all led up to this final show in ol’ Manc.

The local Field Music and David Brewis fan stalwarts were all there, contributing to a celebratory atmosphere as they made their presence known with some hooting and hollering I’ve not otherwise experienced at shows in this town. Before it all started though, there were some questionable characters in navy blue jumpsuits and hats going on and offstage, moving gear round, which I thought was a bit strange. However, upon closer examination, I recognised Jaff Craig, bass player of Futureheads, who would be on synth duties, as well as both Brewis brothers. Ha!

As latest single and first song of the set ‘Dress Up’ would seem to dictate, Brewis scrubs up nice for the live performance, with slicked back hair and a suit jacket that he himself questioned on its ongoing freshness (or lack thereof) as the tour went on. Also not commonly seen at the kind of gigs I usually go to: the man was also wearing corduroy trousers, which may or may not have contributed to the overall grooviness of the set. (I think the last band whose swinging corduroy made a mark on popular music were the Beatles.) Either way though, there was a definite sense of occasion and the feeling this wasn’t going to be just any rock show. And it really wasn’t. Throughout, Brewis made jokes that when he took off his guitar in favour of taking the microphone alone, it didn’t necessarily mean that a ballad was next, though in some cases, such as the rhythmically surprising ‘Suits Us Better’, which sees Brewis essentially coolly beat-boxing into his mike before he breaks out his falsetto, and the slower paced ‘Keep Your Water’ from 2008’s ‘Sea to Shore’, no apologies were needed.

Despite the interloping of a few tracks from his first School of Language album, this was largely an ‘Old Fears’ affair, as it should be. I was expecting the masterpiece that is ‘Between the Suburbs’ to be exhilarating live, and it didn’t disappoint; neither did album opener ‘Distance Between’, seemingly the apex of funk, or hymn slash rock number ‘Moment of Doubt’. My absolute favourite track on the new album, ‘A Smile Cracks’, is arguably the LP’s most Field Music-y moment, and live, its brilliance on display with its bass line guaranteed to force your body to throw shapes, super cool guitar lines and yes, David Brewis-delivered white boy soulful vocals. Yowza.

While Brewis’ appearance was slick, appearances aside, the take home message of a School of Language gig to the industry is this: it’s still possible to make original, intriguing, intelligent and unforgettable music. Cheers, David.

After the cut: the School of Language set list.

School of Language Set List:
Dress Up
Poor Boy
Suits Us Better
Between the Suburbs
Marine Life
A Smile Cracks
Distance Between
Moment of Doubt
Small Words
Keep Your Water
So Much Time

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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