Gomez - Live at The Variety Playhouse

Atlanta 1/24/04

Music Reviews
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Gomez - Live at The Variety Playhouse

Despite the gusting wind’s damp nip, a diverse throng of concertgoers slithers its way around Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse. The crowd’s varied appearance is rivaled only by the eclectic sound of the band it’s come to see tonight— Gomez. Touring with Chicago-native and soulful piano-songstress Rachel Yamagata, these U.K. lads have once again left their home across the sea to bless America with their complex musical stylings.

Around 9:30, The band subtly eases into position under the dim lights. The crowd—now packed warmly together and pressing to get closer to the stage—erupts into wild applause. A steady pulse, under drummer Olly Peacock’s able-and-ready hands, echoes through the smoky hall. Just to the right of the stage, raspy soul-singer Ben Ottewell lights a cigarette with his back to the crowd before sauntering to the mic. Stage left, spindly, lazy-voiced guitarist/vocalist Ian Ball gives a slight wave to fans without speaking a word. Auxiliary percussionist, Paul Blackburn sneaks into position behind an arsenal of cymbals and hand drums, awaiting the cue to begin the first tune. Like a bolt of happiness meant to pierce the thick layers of “cool” generously applied by Gomez’ other members, the relentlessly enthusiastic Tom Gray blasts onstage, hopping and swinging his arms, encouraging the peaking anticipatory adulation of the audience. With the opening notes of “Get Miles” bounding over the sound system, the crowd erupts into thunderous approval.

For the rest of the night, the British rockers zoomed in-and-out of varying musical styles, occasionally hinting at jazz and blues, never fearful of their end-of-song trips into psychedelic exploration. Following “Miles,” the first cut from its debut, Bring It On, Gomez continued with a blazing-fast version of “Shot Shot,” the introductory track from In Our Gun. Later in the evening, the band gave the audience a sneak peak into its upcoming studio release, playing new tunes like the upbeat, folksy “Catch Me Up.” The studio version of the song is set to hit the airwaves in March.

Though the band was plagued by sound problems all night (including the vocals being too low in the mix), nothing could keep Gray from exuding smiles and encouraging the audience to dance and sing along. The rest of the band’s understated nature allowed the enthusiastic frontman to shine as he connected the audience to the experience onstage. But the real highlight of the show was Gomez’ ability to morph and shift roles, a feature that keeps its albums and shows fresh from song to song. Ball effortlessly switched from guitar to bass for a song that required an extra of the latter; Gray bolted from keys and synth to guitar and bass; and Blackburn slipped out from behind his congas and strapped on a guitar. The result was a dizzying journey through classics like “Get Myself Arrested” and “Whippin’ Piccadilly” to a couple new tunes destined to become crowd pleasers..

After closing with the powerful “Revolutionary Kind,” Gomez returned for a four-song encore, including “We Haven’t Turned Around” and “Detroit Swing 66.” Once the band vacated the stage, fans made their way back out into the temporarily forgotten cold, testing their coordination—trying to hum and tap their toes at the same time.