For a post-Britpop band that emerged alongside the likes of Radiohead, Muse and Travis, it sometimes feels like Gomez got a raw deal. After winning the Mercury Prize in 1998 for debut Bring It On, their popularity slowly waned, except in Australian where second album Liquid Skin became the touchstone.
And so it is that Gomez are playing not one but three shows here celebrating their 1999 sophomore set. They kicked off on Wednesday night (Thursday and Friday are both sold out), but it was at something less than a stadium mega-venue. That’s nothing against Freo.Social – it’s the hottest new place in town for a reason with its superb layout and bespoke brewery – but the production wasn’t quite at the level one might expect from a name 90s band playing one of their biggest albums front-to-back.
Openers The Little Lord Street Band stripped down to duo format for an intimate warm up. Current single and one of their best to date, Where Are We, was a highlight with its beautiful harmonies between lead singers Natasha Shanks and James “Jimmy” Rogers. Its mature songwriting, which brings to mind peak-era Fleetwood Mac, bodes well for a debut album due next year. That record should also feature the popular Frankie’s Back in Town, which closed the set. With their usual five-piece arrangement and songs this good it’s easy to imagine them owning venues of this size.
Speaking of two-pieces, a stripped back Galloping Foxleys entertained those outside in the courtyard, adding a nice touch between acts, or for those who couldn’t afford a ticket.
Tom Gray, one of the three lead singers in Gomez, welcomed punters with “You won’t be surprised by the order of these songs.” True to his word they performed Liquid Skin in its entirity. Now, acts such as Pixies and Peter Hook have taken the opportunity to air B-sides and rarities to kick off similar shows, and it was obvious why when openers Hangover and Revolutionary Kind, two of Gomez’s most popular songs, suffered sound problems. Ben Ottewell’s guitar was exceedingly loud and dominated the small venue, causing some punters to move back. Something wasn’t quite right.
Then it all clicked for third track Bring It On, and their intentions became clear. This was going to be a rock show, and no lack of lighting or visuals was going to stop them executing a concert that was ‘big’ sounding. Blue Moon Rising was an elongated folk-rock jam, but it was electric. Las Vegas Dealer‘s big riff scored a clap-along from the crowd, and Fill My Cup featured boisterous slide geetar from Ottewell.
“Are you guys ready for a power ballad?” he asked, and the band dropped into perhaps the night’s most anticipated number, We Haven’t Turned Around, complete with Gray playing the signature cello part faithfully on keys. The chorus was still rocked by waves of distortion.
By the time we got to the terrific Rhythm and Blues Alibi eight songs in, it was evident as to why this album was so popular here – littered with great tracks throughout, it keeps giving and giving. Of particular note were the record’s closers California and Devil Will Ride, a pair of psychedelic epics that proved once and for all Gomez were ahead of their time – it also dropped a hint as to why the hometown of Tame Impala and Pond loves them so much.
Perhaps it’s damning when a band plays a classic album start to finish only to outdo themselves in the encore, but the crowd didn’t seem upset about that on Wednesday. After a short break, Gomez really stepped up both sonically and in terms of production. For Get Miles, it was if the lighting operater finally received a plan to work with, the strobes hitting at just the moment a huge guitar solo from Ottewell did. Epic. Unexpected treat In Our Gun exploded in a dirty, funky bass solo from Gray half way through; 2006 album How We Operate‘s title track was bigger still with an enormous multi-guitar solo.
Unsurprisingly, it was a pair of tracks from their debut album that really revved the crowd up. Get Myself Arrested even featured a winning a cappella audience singalong, while obvious closer Whippin’ Piccadilly sounded as if Rick Rubin had told them to rework it into a full punk rock and roll cacophony. Fast, loud, awesome.
It may have been a little ways from the more intricate folk rock and electronica sounds we remember from their late 90s output, but after a slow start Gomez were a total blast.
Photos by Owen Gregory