Review of their gig in the Olympia Dublin, 3 Dec '99
Wind and rain lashed and had pounded Heathrow all day. My plane was delayed, causing me to be late for this momentous gig. But also, more importantly, the elements conspired to delay the band's equipment reaching Dublin. Thank God for the inclement weather - a conspiring of events that ended in one of the musical events of the year.
With minimal lighting (except for a beautiful, ghostly green flare effect during Tijuana Lady) Gomez took to the stage, almost an hour late and without a support act. Quickly they set about reminding those lucky enough to have been at their previous Olympia concert as to why it was the gig of '98. Fluid playing, dynamic singing, percussion from the Gods and songs that seem to organically blossom on stage into something altogether more compelling and beautiful. Epic, graceful music.
From the opening thunderous bass pump of Get Miles Away, I was transfixed. Ben Ottwell stood centre-stage, head bowed. Slowly he moved forward, cocked to one side, cradled the microphone and started to sing. A primal growl, Waitsian in its depth and force. It is a beautiful instrument that was showcased on Hangover Girl, We Haven't Turned Around and Blue Moon Rising.
Bring It On was a revelation, seeming to erupt from the stage, the live take towering over the studio version. Although both albums are mesmeric statements of intent, their garage band production can seem pallid when held against the light of the band's live prowess. Not one song was presented in its original format, the highlight being a spiritual reworking of their quietly anthemic Tijuana Lady. Starting with the familiar lazy acoustic trawl that the song soon transcends, it transforms into an almost operatic instrumental, each group member pushing and pulling against the tide of emotion and fervour. Majestic. The band segued into a playful cover of Not Fade Away, attacking the chorus with gusto. The audience was a melee of arms, legs, bums and inanely grinning people. Perhaps a tip of the cap to one of their influences, there was also a snatch of Nick Drake's Black Eyed Girl.
The band's encore began with their crowning glory. The Rhythm and Blues Alibi is the keystone of the new album, Liquid Skin. It is a statement of intent - an overture showcasing the acoustic picking, blues squall and vocal harmony of a group that, if they keep evolving, could make the Millennium a very special time to be a music lover.