Features | Concerts

Gomez

By David M. Goldstein | 10 February 2004

The fact that Gomez managed to sell out the 900 capacity Irving Plaza three weeks before showtime wouldn't appear to come as a huge surprise considering the last two times they played New York they were booked in the far larger (and far crappier) Roseland Ballroom. However, their first Roseland show was way back in the fabled spring of 2000, when they were still being touted as a great British hope, building momentum based off of two dynamite albums that had been released within a year of each other. Their debut album, Bring it On, even managed to capture Britain's prestigious Mercury Prize (kind of like the Grammies Album of the Year minus the sucking).

But timing can be a bitch, and the three year layoff between Gomez's second and third records witnessed the phoenix-like rise of the Strokes/Stripes/Hives wave of stripped down rock n' roll, and with their lushly produced, decidedly British take on 60's Americana, Gomez couldn't have appeared more irrelevant. It didn't help matters that 2002's In Our Gun was easily the weakest of their three records (though in my opinion not as awful as this site would lead you to believe); offering the sound of Gomez, but without any of the hooks. While I did not attend their second Roseland show, my spies tell me that the venue was at best half full.

But with the garage rock movement currently reduced to churning out embarrassingly derivative poseurs like Jet, and with lush production values once again being viewed as a valuable asset, now would appear as good a time as any for Gomez to mount a comeback of sorts (the word "comeback" being a little disheartening considering no-one in the band seems to have left their late 20's). That they managed to quickly sell out Irving Plaza two years removed from their last album and with minimal publicity attests to the fact that their fanbase still exists, and with a new record this spring, and the far inferior Thrills becoming famous by completely jacking their steez, it could once again be time for Gomez to cash in now, honey.

While there's still only five dudes that can claim to be card carrying members of Gomez, things apparently get a little convoluted in the live setup. In addition to the core members, there was an extra percussionist, another guitarist, and the prototypical "guy lurking in the shadows with his back turned" who would appear to strap on a guitar or trigger some samples from time to time. While it's tempting to call Gomez a traditional two-guitar rock band, these guys re-define democracy onstage; switching instruments in between every song, letting everyone but the bass player and drummer have a hand at lead vocals, and if memory serves, they even let the auxiliary guitarist write one of the five new songs. And despite not having seen the band in four years, I was pleased to see that the mantle of Gomez mascot still rests squarely on the shoulders of bespectacled goofball Tom Gray; singing lead vocals on three new songs (and lip synching to the others), trying his hand at nearly every instrument, and simply jumping from foot to foot and exhorting the crowd to dance when he didn't have anything else to do.

In anticipation of their new album, and in front of what could be considered a crowd of mostly serious fans, Gomez played five new songs. At least three of these contained bruising power chords uncharacteristic of their prior output; indicating that the band may have not been as oblivious to the garage-trend as one might think. Upcoming single "Catch Me Up" is a shuffling rocker in the vein of "Whippin' Piccadilly" that seemed likeable enough, and the first encore was maybe the most promising of the new tracks, sung by Ian Ball and containing a series of thunderous drum beats before catering to the band's electro-dub side. Less impressive was the Tom Gray sung "Sweet Virginia," as much for the fact that it wasn't the brilliant Exile-era Rolling Stones song as the fact that a British band who is often derided for shamelessly milking Americana is really asking for it when they name a song "Sweet Virginia" (see also; "Las Vegas Dealer", "California").

Setlist wise, Gomez appears to know where their bread is buttered, as the bulk of the set contained songs from Bring it On (including the expected and always awesome "Here Comes the Breeze") and the three best tracks from In Our Gun; "Shot Shot", the title track, and the incredibly catchy Mardi Gras march that is "Detroit Swing 66." Liquid Skin was only represented by a possibly paltry four songs, but those songs were among the night's best, including a slightly revamped take on "Bring it On," what may have been the live debut of "Fill My Cup," "We Haven't Turned Around," and the dubby rumble of "Revolutionary Kind" which was augmented by a mirror ball and closed out the set (and continued long after the band left the stage, Super Furries-style). And perhaps in an effort to show that they were aware of the fact that most in attendance comprised the hardcore fanbase, the band broke out "Bring Your Lovin' Back Here" a never before played Liquid Skin-era B-side featured on the Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline compilation.

The overall performance was very tight, yet loose enough to not feel completely scripted; one disappointment stemming from the fact that Gomez opts to use samples as opposed to actual musicians to capture many of the unique sounds that crop up on their records (e.g. electric cello on "We Haven't Turned Around," horns elsewhere). In sum, it was an enjoyable show, and a good reminder as to why I completely adored these guys in college. Extra kudos are in order for their wise choice not to play "Tijuana Lady," the closest thing Gomez has to an insipid love ballad, and therefore the song that got the most shout-outs (from fair-weather fans anyway). Hopefully their fourth record will allow them to re-capture some of the momentum they lost with the three year gap between their 2nd and 3rd album. Excellent songwriters who are unafraid to take advantage of lush production and rich harmonies; there's simply too much talent in Gomez for them to be considered washed up a mere six years into their career.