For a band celebrating the 20 year anniversary of their second album ‘Liquid Skin’, which they have re-released, they looked surprisingly youthful. Image never having been a consideration, Gomez fell out of favour in the UK around the time ‘Liquid Skin’ was released. Critics used to say they were old men trapped in young bodies. Still old men trapped in young bodies then, but now it was time for those critics to f@ck off and let us enjoy some bloody good music.
It was the first date of an 8 date tour, it was the De La Warr Pavilion and a friend and I puzzled over why the audience were all old, forgetting that they were actually our age and it wasn’t still 1999. As Gomez said in an interview, the audiences are usually eclectic and sometimes the only thing that people had in common was that they were at a Gomez gig. This was their widespread appeal and meeting a couple from Boston who followed Gomez to all their gigs, and who subsequently met up with other Gomez fans from far flung places on their trip to UK was testament to this.
They blasted through tracks from ‘Liquid Skin’, some of which they hadn’t played for 15 years like ‘Fill My Cup’ which now took some limbering up first by Tom Gray, guitar. It started with a much encouraged bit of heavy bass from Paul Blackburn who lingered quietly at the back. Tom Gray then swapped to keyboard for what he termed a ‘power ballad’ (I can’t help associating them with 80’s Rock), ‘We Haven’t Turned Around’.
To produce their distinctive sound, there were many guitars to swap and negotiate onstage and almost as many beards. Especially when support and friend, acclaimed guitarist and Ben Ottewell doppelganger, John Smith, came on to join them. His fantastic fingerstyle techniques fitted in perfectly.
20 years on, there are now many old voices coming out of young mouths, but at the time, Ben Ottewell’s salty old bluesman’s growl really stood out. It still does, especially when competing with only one guitar in the emotive ‘Make No Sound’. Towards the end of the set it was time to ‘bring out the big guns’ of tracks from their Mercury award winning debut ‘Bring it On’. Among those were ‘Miles Away’, ‘Whippin Piccadilly’ and ‘Get Myself Arrested’ evoking memories and nostalgia throughout the room.
Their music proved timeless and the band (friends from Sheffield University) looked as though they still really enjoyed playing together. It is not as though they had disappeared all this time, rather they went to America after the UK backlash where their fifth album, ‘How We Operate’, became the biggest selling record in the states. Three of them now live over there such is their success. So their love of Americana paid off.
So long live great, enduring music and may a fickle and image conscious industry stop trying to quash it!