Gomez :: 11.25.04 :: Octagon Centre :: Sheffield, UK

In one aspect, Gomez has had a tumultuous time of late. After reaching the top of the popular musical pyramid in the UK throughout the late 90s, the band has had a falling out with their core British audience because of a limited UK touring schedule that coincided with the release of their painfully inaccessible but courageously eclectic sixth record, Split the Difference. There is a certain attitude that needs to be ascertained to succeed in the NME (Britain's New Musical Express magazine) dominated UK popular music circuit. Whether it is organizing your look to seem disorganized or employing a snobbish, serious attitude towards your music, there is an underlying facade of mock poise that hovers over most indie UK bands. Through their honest demeanor and unpretentious music, Gomez has consistently rejected the image that has proven successful, and paid the price, both literally and figuratively for it. Consequently, the band was recently dropped by their European record label and continues to remain at the bottom of the barrel with Virgin Records, their US counterpart. With all the industrial causalities affecting the band, the financial well has run dry.

On the other hand, the band has never been better. These issues have prompted a start from scratch approach, which has facilitated a fresh, youthful energy towards their craft. In recent months, they have supported the String Cheese Incident--the venerable heads of the jamband scene throughout the US-- and headlined both Bonnaroo and South by Southwest, all of which has exponentially added to their North American fan support this year alone.

Ian Hall by Dorothy Markek
A double edged sword of sorts. That is why their ten-date, fall UK college tour was so important. Having solidified their gritty rock across the pond, the Sheffield septet had to make amends with their neglected fans in order to re-instate themselves as the most innovative British rock band of the last decade. In front of a sold out hometown crowd bursting with friends and family, the band did just that.

The Octagon Centre is the main gymnasium at the University of Sheffield. Located right in the middle of the extremely hilly campus, the large hall is the all-in-one campus building. Home to club nights, gigs, fairs, meetings and exams (guitarist/singer Ian Hall commented on how he used to write exams in the room), the Octagon was the perfect stage for musical atonement; big enough for everyone, while small enough for everyone to feel individually connected to the band.

From the onset, Gomez played with a forceful intensity that reflected their newfound musical regeneration. The three-headed vocal onslaught provided by Hall, beautifully raspy guitarist Ben Ottewell and multi-instrumentalist Tom Gray complimented the hard hitting, feverishly catchy melody that makes Gomez so interestingly spellbinding. Almost immediately, the equilibrium of grittiness and somber beauty that thematically entwines Gomez's collegiate rock reared its enticing head, and the sold out crowd immediately hopped on for the two-hour ride.

Gomez by Dorothy Markek
Combining tested-and-true old material, including "Get Miles," the brilliant opening track to their Mercury Prize winning debut Bring It On, the less-than-serious "Get Myself Arrested" and the socially critical gem "Rhythm & Blues Alibi" with their newer, less received material like the gorgeous, polyrhythmic acoustic ballad "Catch Me Up" and their own personal sonic statement "Nothing is Wrong," Gomez won back their contingent, in a scene that seemed almost as pleasing for the band as it was for the audience. The septet was in dire need of self assurance, and had come home to refuel the energy that first propelled them to cult-like status in the United Kingdom. Thankfully, that is exactly what they received.

The commanding aggressiveness the band employed colourfully tinged every melodic line the septet delivered, further proving why they are the best current touring band in Britain. They were loud, very loud, the type of loud that houses an inherent softness that blanketed the volume with layers of soulful, rootsy somberness. Equal amounts of metal laced guitar wank and Americana gentleness clouded the set, showcasing radiant eclecticism and collegiate style ingenuity that carried the sold out crowd from lighter swaying to full out head banging boogie.

Innovation in the popular British rock scene does not translate into success, as going above and beyond the norm is often discouraged. In addition, disappearing for almost two years, being chastised by the popular press and exploring the musical wilderness that sits behind NME sponsored barb wire does not help the situation either. Still, Gomez is proving that adversity leads to creativity, and recognition requires a bit of patience. Sure, Gomez is teetering on the tightrope of the triumph over adversity cliché, but from gauging the hometown response, the septet can sleep comfortably in their own beds tonight, hopefully having realized that good times are just round the bend.

Shain Shapiro
JamBase | United Kingdom
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[Published on: 12/1/04]

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