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GOMEZ @ Metro City gets 8.5/10

Gomez @ Metro City
w/ Riley Pearce, Carla Geneve
Wednesday, April 4, 2018

8.5/10

Gomez inititally earned their reputation and acclaim, not only for some great records, but more-so their relentless touring and outstanding, heartfelt live performances. And after a six-year hiatus, it was a welcome and triumphant return for the group, as they performed their debut album Bring It On in full, celebrating 20 years since its release.

A tight group of friends, multi-talented musicians and entertaining performers with a wealth of great material to draw on, they have the innate ability to put on a great show with nothing but the full sound of the five members playing as one onstage.

While they have been on an indefinite break since 2012, it’s been even longer since they were in Perth. After around 15 years playing as a band, they decided it was time for a break, to pursue other artistic endeavours, raise families and generally not do Gomez. A couple of them made solo albums, and Ben Ottewell has visited a few times, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the full band playing these songs – and they proved they’ve lost none of their chemistry and charisma, with their trio of singer/songwriter/guitarist frontmen all delivering.

As they’ve always liked to do, Gomez got in a couple well-chosen, talented homegrown solo supports. Star on the rise Carla Geneve has been doing great things lately, and it was a pity she didn’t have a bigger crowd early on, but those in attendance were impressed by this young girl with a big voice. She has some great songs and a lot of presence on stage with her rocking, grungy style, crunchy, distorted guitar and powerful vocals, climaxing with Empty Stomach. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

After a bit of a break, it was Riley Pearce’s turn. The young troubadour has a style that could well be appreciated by a Gomez crowd, with his soft subtle acoustic guitar and melancholic vocals, occasionally rising to great heights. He struggled early on to fill the big room and capture the crowd, and could have benefited from more volume, but warmed up and settled in after a few songs. His style varies from crooning balladry of timeless beauty, to emotional rock moments cracking with falsetto that recalled Bon Iver or even early U2. Soon to be released, If I Knew went down well, while two of his best tracks, Drive and Circles, showcased his unique skill at playing percussion on his guitar, with precise little taps of the wood between strums.

When Gomez finally arrived on stage, it was like they had never gone away. They were greeted with hearty cheers like a bunch of dear old friends. Their Mercury Prize winning debut may be 20 years old, but it’s a timeless album thanks to their eclectic genius and unique fusion of indie, blues, rock, folk, electronic and psychedelic experimental instrumentation.

The droning synth riff starting off Get Miles incited whoops of excitement, and even more when Ben Ottewell stepped up to the mic, silencing the room which his mighty voice, which has lost none of its smoke and fire. The ending was jammed out a bit, but mostly the songs were performed faithfully and in order.

With Ottewell having visited Perth a few times in recent years, it was a real treat when the mild-mannered Ian Ball, not seen in a long time, stepped up to sing his first song – one of the band’s first and biggest singles, Whippin’ Piccadilly.

Another huge vocal track for Ottewell was Make No Sound, that reminded you how much he was thought to have sounded like a British Eddie Vedder – this huge, husky, refined voice coming out of an unassuming, bespectacled kid. These days he’s a bit bigger, with a presence and swagger that seems to fit.

78 Stone Wobble saw Tom Gray step up to sing. It’s testament to the band members’ enduring friendship, that the lineup has never changed. All three singer-songwriters could have formed their own bands, but together they are more than the sum of their parts. There’s something about their vocal and guitar interplay that is the key to their greatness.

Tijuana Lady is still probably their greatest track, and it was a glorious moment that had the whole crowd singing along with Ottewell as he delivered that amazing, soaring vocal, “El mariachi desperado!” It’s kind of remarkable that as he’s aged, he seems to be turning into Seth Rogan, with his glasses and big beard. He’s also the most up for a bit of banter and took a moment to lead the crowd in a singalong to wish their long-term sound guy Dave Hadley a happy 50th birthday: “He’s been to every Gomez gig ever! Even the ones we haven’t been to!”

Here Comes The Breeze’s instrumental segue also showed off Ottewell’s impressive lead guitar skills, before Gray had another turn in the spotlight. “Not every man can pull off a pink shirt and guitar combination,” he joked as he introduced Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone, with its swinging stomp and squawking guitar. Bubble Gum Years was a rare addition that saw Gray sit down at the keyboard. His songs always had a more melodic, classic sound to them, and it’s this constant mix of styles that gave the band their edge.

Another highlight, which was well and truly owned by Ball, was Get Myself Arrested – a track that was Gomez at their youthful, playful best. But the real surprise was what was to come after the slinky groove and slide guitar of the album’s final track Rie’s Wagon. And to much excitement they immediately changed it up with the heavy beat and lurching, swampy jazz-funk groove of Shot Shot – the only track included from third album In Our Gun.

The rest of the set comprised of highlights from their sophomore album Liquid Skin, much to the joy of the crowd, starting with Hangover and Rhythm And Blues Alibi, which features probably the best vocal and guitar interplay between Ball and Ottewell. There’s such a contrast between the two – Ian’s a scruffy, lanky, indie kid with guitars covered in stickers, while Ben’s a stocky, solid force in the middle, and it’s this combination that makes them so brilliant.

Ben stepped up front to play slide on Blue Moon Rising and wasn’t afraid to venture into psych-rock territory, while formative band member Olly Peacock kept things locked down on drums, alongside unassuming bass player Paul Blackburn. They finished the set with the mighty Bring It On (ironically a track not found on the album they’d played earlier) before returning to huge, warm applause for an encore of the sprawling, epic Revolutionary Kind.

We need more bands like this. Welcome back Gomez, we’ve missed you.

ALFRED GORMAN

Photos by Paul Dowd Photography

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