Gomez – Academy, Bristol – 10 June 2011

Written for 247 Magazine.

Just a handful of years after their first public performance (at the small Hyde Park Social Club in Leeds), a fickle music industry had already fired Gomez through a complete career arc. On the back of debut album Bring It On’s dramatic Mercury Prize victory over higher profile efforts by The Verve and Massive Attack, they found themselves toasted at establishment parties all over. Before long, though, the zeitgeist had begun to part from their blues and dub influences, and subsequent albums sold less well – the apocryphal Curse of the Mercury Prize was invented specifically for them.

Framed like that, it’s a little surprising to find Gomez still in existence, but hard graft and increasing success across the pond has granted them longevity, albeit with some changes in manner. Facing a Bristol Academy little over half full of adoring fans, LA resident songwriter Ian Ball’s lyrics and banter slipped into Americanism (talk of his salmon coloured “pants” seemed to put disconcerting distance between the Gomez of today and the halcyon days of their northern youth). Drawing songs from each of their studio albums (including the 4-day-old Whatever’s On Your Mind), the best received periods of their show eschewed the uniform blues-rock of their more recent albums.

Gomez’s best songs are designed to produce a visceral effect when played live. With a simple riff building to an influx of pummelled drums, the punchy opener ‘Shot Shot’ was over almost as soon as it had begun. Later on, Ben Ottewell’s psychedelic lead guitar assaults in ‘Get Miles’ punctuated the more workmanlike arrangements on show. After 15 years, though, the band’s greatest strength is still Ottewell’s distinctive voice. At the forefront of powerful renditions of ‘How We Operate’ and ‘Get Miles’, his Waitsian growl implausibly comes across as authentic.

Ottewell is just one of three lead vocalists, alongside rhythm guitarists Ian Ball and Tom Gray. In ‘Here Comes the Breeze’, the trio’s voices and guitars combined for the most accomplished and wholly absorbing performance of the evening. Whenever the setlist veered into Bring It On territory, band cheerleader Gray had no trouble whipping the audience into raptures.

By contrast, frequent new songs met with mixed responses. ‘I Will Take You There’ and recent single ‘Options’ have already been elevated to singalong status, but the sweet, drum-free rendition of ‘Our Goodbye’ was ignored by talkative pockets of the crowd. The lukewarm response from some quarters was thrown into sharp relief by the unanimous electric reaction to the thumping, pre-Kasabian atmospherics of ‘Army Dub’, which immediately followed. That dramatic difference illustrated what’s been true of Gomez’s homeland gigs for some years now – this was one for the old faithful.

Lifted from YouTube: ‘Get Miles’, from this gig

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