Three years ago Gomez had a stint touring as main support to ageing grunge rockers Pearl Jam, on the North American leg of their world tour. The experience seems to have been a mostly pleasant one and has rubbed off on their live show. The vibe is looser, the overall feeling is of watching an old favourite band play a homecoming of sorts.
The US has a long history of ‘jam’ bands, dating back to the Grateful Dead and brought up to the present day with groups such as Pearl Jam, Phish, Blues Traveller & The Dave Matthews Band. These bands are often sneered at by the serious music press but never fail to draw enormous crowds on their annual summer shindigs. They will consistently play the more popular tracks accompanied by fancy light shows and leave the more morose or experimental numbers for the studio. In terms of record sales and securing a fanbase, it’s a no brainer.
Tonight’s show at the Roundhouse is no different. Relying heavily on fleshed out versions of material from their first couple of albums ( though sadly no Tijuana Lady), the band are a much heavier prospect than they were a decade ago. It might be the somewhat muffled acoustics of the venue but the riffs feel heavier and the solo’s are somewhat more bombastic. Tracks such as Bring It On and Get Myself Arrested have an almost “Hawkwind at Knebworth ’76” vibe. They’re both bluesy and effortlessy spaced out.
Multi-instrumentalist Tom Gray’s boundless enthusiasm is a tonic to the heaviness being created by lead guitarists Ian Ball and Ben Ottewell and he regularly has the crowd clapping along, even to the lesser known numbers.
The boys are renowned for their anti commercial stance. They don’t dress like rock stars or fall out of nightclubs, they dont endorse cheap electronic products or cameo in bad Hollywood films. Their only major indie faux pas might be the usage of their tracks in various TV shows. They’ve often been the go to for poignant televisual moments. But surely that’s just an indication of how loved the material is.
Naysayers could accuse them of a lack of musical direction but do they really need to reinvent the wheel? Their music came to the world already perfectly formed. It may not have been current or groundbreaking but it has soul and fervour. They defiantly enjoy what they do and persist despite the various obstacles that have been thrown their way (major label dissolutions, the Mercury Music Prize curse and so forth). Tonight’s show proves they triumph where it matters most, on stage and in our hearts.