Gomez is one of the few bands left capable of making a two hour set seem like fifteen minutes. All of the elements that make the band so admired combine flawlessly on a live stage, namely Ben Ottewell’s soul-tearing vocals, Tom Gray’s charm, and Ian Ball’s reserved attack.
Then, of course, there are the songs; eclectic, melodic and, in comparison to many other outfits that rose to prominence in the late 90s, without peer. During their fifteen years in operation, the band has failed to pen a sub-par tune in whatever genre or style they’ve opted to tackle.
Prior to their appearance, local lads (and sole lass) Eagle And The Worm took to the secondary – and significantly smaller – Corner Hotel stage. With their 60s infused spirit on display, the eight-piece provided valid support, though many of their live cuts could’ve done with a slight edit to prolong the building crowd’s attention.
Tonight’s show was ‘by request’, meaning fans could vote for exactly what Gomez tracks they wanted to hear. One of the issues with this type of approach is that it can inevitably lead to a ‘greatest hits’ set, therefore eliminating any opportunity of surprise or unpredictability.
Thankfully, with a band as diverse as Gomez, the songs can come from anywhere. As co-frontman Tom Gray noted during the performance; “we’re a quizzical type of band, aren’t we? Lots of left turns.”
He wasn’t wrong.
That being the case, there were still the inevitable choices; ‘Whippin’ Piccadilly’, ‘Tijuana Lady’ and ’How We Operate’ were delivered on cue. Given the quality of these tracks, there wasn’t a single person amongst the initially ‘polite’ Sunday evening crowd that seemed to mind.
Those new to Gomez tend to get drawn in by the gruff and unique raspings of Ben Ottewell. On record, his tenor cuts and splices through the speakers and hits the listener with the intensity of a jet. In a live environment they go even further, expanding and inflicting impact on everyone in attendance.
Tonight was no different. His voice, combined with Gray’s gentle razzings of the crowd, built a rapport that climaxed in call-backs and rowdy overhead applause by the show’s end.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the number of selections hoisted from the band’s latest – and arguably weakest – album, Whatever’s On Your Mind. Not long ago, Gray reflected on how he believed the LP didn’t quite meet his expectations. Clearly fans disagree with his critique, as exemplified by the likes of ‘I Will Take You There’, ‘Song In My Heart’ and ‘Options’ getting a run.
The rest of the cuts flowed from across their wide discography, ranging from ‘We Haven’t Turned Around’ (Liquid Skin), ‘Sweet Virginia’ (Split The Difference) and even an inspired rendition of ‘Machismo’ (Machismo), a track that was propped up against Vin Diesel’s lats on The Fast & Furious soundtrack.
Although a few further tracks from A New Tide would’ve been nice, kudos must go to the band’s legion of followers for selecting such a well-rounded setlist.
There’s no better way to get a grasp on Gomez’s fifteen year journey than to sit in a room, turn up the speakers and listen to their entire catalogue without food or distraction.
As far as next best things go, however, tonight’s near two-hour set was about as close as it gets.