A Getintothis favourite returns. Paddling upstream – just the way we like it.
Hours before our O2 date we’re sat in the quirky surround that is Mello Mello.
Ladies knitting, huddled by the dozen, wagon-wheeled around an ornate table laden with chipped crockery and tea-stained silver spoons.
They’re beaming. Not because Mello Mello is a wonderful, largely undiscovered, pocket of The Pool’s creative underbelly. Nor because there’s a beatnik quartet filling the air with Kerouac free-jazz. No, they’re happy, simply because they’re doing exactly what they want to do – their own thing.
Three hours later, and five old University friends are exiting stage left, pretty much feeling the same way.
As has always been the case, Gomez follow their own lead, irrespective of all. This has, for the four part Southport and one part Matlock collective, been their strength and their weakness.
It’s the reason why they’ve still a healthy live following (tonight the Academy boasts listeners well-acquainted with their Bring It On heyday, and also a sizeable gathering that’ve stuck with them right up until recently released sixth studio record A New Tide). But also the reason why they’re commercially dead in the water.
Who cares? Not Gomez.
Now, quite literally a transatlantic operation, they’re residing in geographical spaces which reflect the music they’ve been producing since their Sheffield Uni days.
And for the most part it still works a treat.
Hefty chunks of tonight’s offering are lifted from A New Tide; and to these ears hearing it for the first time – live, rather than on record – is perhaps the finest way to experience it.
Too often their recent recorded output glossed over those endearing rough edges or added excessive, overly-elaborate production waffle obscuring their finest characteristics.
These characteristics are obvious; stripped Beta Band-like spacefolk lullabies, gradual-build Delta Blues which burst into cyclonic colour and chiefly Ian Ball‘s honey-soaked vocals combining with Ben Ottewell‘s primal howl.
There are numerous newies which wisely utilise this, their defining quality; Little Pieces apes Jose Gonzalez‘s Heartbeats cover, Bone Tired finds drummer Ollie Peacock, together with Ball, swapping sticks for i-pods as they chime beats to a mesmerising wind-swept clatter with Ottewell’s thunderous vocal piercing through yellow light, while Lost Track is reminiscent of Pearl Jam at their most tender – a set standout.
Gomez: Lost Track (live)
Another new one to capture the senses is Natural Reaction which rattles along before Ottewell brings things to a close with the ringing of an alarm clock.
Sadly, there are a number of plodders. And almost all arrive when Tom Gray takes the lead.
Gray, the affable multi-instrumentalist, has always entertained as unofficial stage leader, but tonight he’s happy to assume a backseat, yet sadly when he steps up to the mike, we’re almost inclined to step back to the bar. em>Guitarshapedlovedrug bounds around like a dopey labrador in need of a tranquiliser while new cut If I Ask You Nicely overdoses on sugar with la-di-da lyrics which sound distinctly incomplete.
But these blips are just that. Especially when you’ve a well of riches to draw from like Gomez; seriously, the amount of songs shouted by the expectant crowd is remarkable. Ball laps it up: ‘Yeah, tonight we’re going to play every song we’ve ever written…‘ Much applause…
Of course their treasure trove Bring It On is there to be exploited whenever there’s a need for a mass singalong; Make No Sound has the entire O2 growling in unison, Get Myself Arrested finds young and old punching the air and Whippin’ Piccadilly somehow manages to still sound fresh as a daisy.
But it’s Ottewell’s crowning glory, Tijuana Lady, which is their unequalled gem; a song which peaks, tumbles and rises once more with that cheeky lyrical nod to Robert Rodriguez juxtaposing a spectacular climax – ‘El Mariachi, Desperadoooooooooooooooooo.’
Unleashing their full armoury, a four-way guitar blast-off, How We Operate, from their near-forgotten fifth record, is tonight’s set closer; it’s glorious and completely unexpected.
Apt then, for a band intent on paddling upstream, just the way they like it.
Gomez: Tijuana Lady (live in HMV Liverpool, April 09)
*pic courtesy of Gomez Forum member preamble
More great pics here.