170 Russell, Melbourne
April 1, 2018
"Anyone else feel like they're 19 again?" quipped Tom Gray after a particularly joyous singalong of Gomez's Get Myself Arrested, one of the breakthrough singles on their award-winning debut album.
It was a fitting question that summed up the night for many. After all, recapturing lost youth and the transportational nature of nostalgia were key reasons for the sell-out show at 170 Russell (a second show was added for Monday night due to popular demand). We were there to celebrate 20 years since that first album - Bring It On - came into the world, introducing us to this multi-voiced five-piece from Southport, UK.
That album was played in full - from slow groove opener Get Miles to the "weird" (Gray's word, not mine) psych closer Rie's Wagon (closing soundscape snippet The Comeback was omitted but that's just a sample of Get Miles anyway). There were the hits - 78 Stone Wobble, Get Myself Arrested, Whippin' Piccadilly - but after living with the album for 20 years, even the deep cuts sound like hits now.
Hearing it all live, in order, showcased both the album's diversity and its unity - the seemingly disparate aspects that have made Gomez such an exciting prospect for two decades. Get Miles and its follower Whippin' Piccadilly ("We don't usually play that one second," chuckled Gray) sound like two different bands, and there is also considerable distance between the neo-blues of 78 Stone Wobble and the ska-skip of Get Myself Arrested. Yet the through-lines become clear - those delicious harmonies, Ian Ball's preference for his tremelo pedal, Ben Ottewell's slide guitar flourishes, and the dabblings of Americana throughout. And then there's Ottewell's voice - a rich bluesy bark that adds a distinct flavour to everything he sings in, which is pretty much everything on this album.
It's the combination of the three voices - Ottewell, Ball and Gray - that has always been the drawcard with Gomez. It gave the albums that aforementioned diversity, and when all three sing together, bam, there's the aforementioned unity. Having seen them live in 2009 opening for The Black Keys and feeling like the harmonies were off a bit, Sunday's show was a validation.
There's also the songwriting of course. Hearing Bubblegum Years (a live rarity) in concert was a treat, as was Gray's kooky Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone. But every song on Bring It On has a cool hook in it, or a sweet chord change, or just something about it that makes your ears prick up and take notice. Seeing Bring It On performed in its entirety was a reminder of what a strong album it is from go to whoa.
Capping it all off was the rest of the setlist, which featured five songs from album #2 (Liquid Skin) and Shot Shot (the opening single from In Our Gun). While We Haven't Turned Around was a notable omission, this was very much a setlist geared towards the ground-level fans. The second night was similarly focused on the early years, throwing in rarities collection Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline cut Bring Your Lovin' Back Here and third album highlight Ruff Stuff. Nothing post-2002 - that was the rule.
Here's hoping we get the Liquid Skin 20th anniversary tour next year.
You can sign up and watch the concert in full here.