Sense Field’s new single I Refuse may be a relatively polite affair, but anyone worried that they had lost the power and drive of their early days as emo pioneers would have been reassured by their live performance at The Garage.
It may have been partly the sound, which swallowed up virtually all of the lyrics, but this was definitely a high-octane set which took few prisoners. The crowd – many of whom were surely too young to have followed the ups and downs of this endearing band – were more than happy and the rest of the band rewarded them with a good hour of solid, punchy rock.
“It’s good to be back,” was the opening comment from lead singer Jon Bunch, looking more like a caricature Irish navvy than a Southern Californian with his big beefy frame, sideburns and flat cap. In fact, he is so tall that the low ceiling in front of the stage constantly threatened to do him some nasty damage (“Has anyone seen my helmet?”) as he grinned and roared his way through the set. Not too much sign of the “fragile”, “silky” vocals sometimes mentioned in reviews of Sense Field’s recorded output – if anything his voice had a touch of the Rod Stewart rasp to it – but there was certainly no lack of energy.
There was a good sprinkling of old favourites – notably the driving fast-paced Outlive The Man and the guitar-heavy Different Times from 1996 album Building, and Beatles Song from Tonight And Forever.
Unsurprisingly though, much of the hour long set showcased songs from the newly released Living Outside, written by Jon Bunch and guitarist Chris Evenson, long-time collaborators since their early days as teenagers in Reason To Believe.
No Medicine (“This is a song about drugs,” announces Bunch) has a Velvet Underground feel to it with rhythms that bizarrely suggest early Billy Joel, but the result is compelling. On Your Own is a slower, anthemic song with a terrific guitar riff.
Others were less easy to identify without the benefit of a decent sound balance but the whole set gave the impression that whatever has been thrown in their path in the past, Sense Field are not going to give up without a damn good fight.
This is only the early stage of their European tour. If they put as much oomph into every gig they’ll be exhausted, but will have reinforced the commitment of their dedicated fans and added a good few more.
Opening support Sunfactor – a newer emo rock band currently touring the UK, with an album out – should also have collected some new adherents. Like Sense Field, they deserve to be better known.