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Gomez - Roundhouse, London, 21/6/2011

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 26 / 6 / 2011

Gomez - Roundhouse, London, 21/6/2011


Mercury Music Prize winners Gomez have always been more out than in fashion, but Ben Howarth watches them play a near perfect set to promote their new album 'Whatever's On Your Mind' at the Roundhouse in London

What do critics know? Gomez are in a curious position, where the earliest and most commercially successfully part of their music career was damned by too much critical acclaim, and then the rest of it has been damned by too little. Thirteen years after their debut album surprised almost everyone by winning the Mercury Music Prize, Gomez played to a nearly-full Roundhouse. These days, the critics are elsewhere – but a keen fanbase has endured, some of whom may even have bought the new album. Judging by tonight’s set, Gomez have become comfortable with ‘Bring It On’ casting a shadow over their back catalogue. It now casts quite a large shadow over their live show as well – with ‘Whippin Piccadilly’, ‘Get Miles’, ‘Get Myself Arrested’, ‘Here Comes the Breeze’ and ‘Make No Sound’ the cornerstones of their set. Tempering the nostalgia from their early days, they play most pf their new album, 'Whatever's On Your Mind' – showcasing a memorable set of songs that range between ballads, uptempo rock-pop, folk and vocal shredders. Lead single ‘Options’ captures the devil-may-care attitude of their early days, and goes down nearly as well as the old favourites. The traits that helped Gomez become so popular in 1998 are still in place – three distinctive vocalists swapping instruments and blending genres, a brilliant drummer and some fantastic guitar solos. One of the highlights of tonight’s set is when Tom Gray breaks joyfully into ‘Waster’, a lesser known track from the 'Machismo' EP. Though arguably a less gifted musician than his colleagues (although I’m not sure it’s always as simple as the person singing the song having written it), his sheer enthusiasm is a crucial part of the band’s live show – none of the others being anything like as good at connecting with the crowd. Years of hard touring in America has drilled Gomez into being an excellent live act. Stateside, they have quite a following in the jam band scene, and while you never get the sense of the band making it up as they go along, the guitar solos and loose rhythms are clearly what appeals to fans of Phish. They’d be an excellent addition to the summer festival season – but it looks like a consensus has formed that they’re not hip enough. ‘Bring It On’ had to overcome the Verve’s 'Urban Hymns', Pulp’s 'This Is Hardcore', Massive Attack’s 'Mezzanine', Catatonia’s 'International Velvet' and Robbie William’s 'Life Thru a Lens' to win the Mercury. It was hard to avoid the suspicion that the judges were trying to pick something obscure so they’d look clever. Unfortunately, Gomez found themselves condemned for the sins of the judges. Tonight, they make a good defence – these songs still sound like nobody else. ‘Whippin Piccadilly’ is effortlessly fresh, ‘Make No Sound’ is beautiful, ‘Get Miles’ relentless and the arrangements are all restlessly inventive. The downside to playing so much of the Mercury winner is less attention for their other albums. Nevertheless, ‘Hangover’, which they haven’t played for a while, is fantastic – a loose groove under sunkissed harmonies, while the sharp blast of ‘Shot Shot’ is a perfect set opener. I could list lots of songs I would have liked to hear, but there’s not much we can do about that. The evening wasn’t quite perfect. The Roundhouse’s sound quality was a little muddy, especially when Ian Ball was singing, and it seemed like the extra lighting needed to provide a live webcast of show online inhibited the crowd too much. But Gomez are a band with plenty to celebrate from their past and a new album that has been one of the highlights of the first half of 2011. They might look more like history teachers than rock stars, but their live show speaks for itself.

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Gomez - Roundhouse, London, 21/6/2011

Gomez - Roundhouse, London, 21/6/2011

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