Gomez + Little Comets @ HMV Institute, 20th June 2011


When most people think of Gomez they think bluesy mid-90s indie pop, a Mercury Prize, and a rapid decent into relative obscurity. But Gomez have been leading a secret life for the past decade or so, touring relentlessly in the States and building a sizeable and loyal following on the US gig circuit. So it must be a little strange for them to return having to play to a relatively cold crowd in the Library at HMV Institute.

As people filled the room, I was aware that the crowd were ‘of a certain age’ and almost certainly a lot were there on the strength of Gomez’ breakthrough album Bring It On, and the very worthy follow-ups Liquid Skin and In Our Gun. So it would be interesting to see how Gomez tackled their set. Fill with old faves or push on with newer material? Either way, Gomez would have a task on their hands to keep everyone happy.

But before they could have a go, Geordie four-piece Little Comets came on to warm us up. And what a good job they did.

I first saw Little Comets last year supporting Darwin Deez while reviewing for this very blog, so a quick skim over what I said then gives me a little smile as it’s broadly what I think now. Little Comets provided taut, reverb-drenched indie pop that manages to provide lyrical depth at the same time as a boogie. But since then, the lads have tightened up even further. This time they really impressed me.

Their gimmick (and it is a gimmick) is a washing line suspended above the stage with a couple of tambourines, a shaker and a saucepan hanging from it. Occasionally they’ll reach up and use the assorted instruments, but this time they looked a bit strained as it was a bit too high for them. But ignoring that, Little Comets played a textbook support slot.

They combine plinky-plonky guitar lines, sharp changes in rhythm, with some emotive lyrics and yelps from the front man, who seems like a thoroughly nice chap through his easy stage banter and band in-jokes. The band’s newer material borrows from Paul Simon’s sound palette and the heaps of reverb gave their set a shimmering effect.


The crowd were definitely tuned in and bobbing along and at the end Little Comets received a big cheer of appreciation. A job well done and certainly one to look out for. As a side note, if you play bass, have got a big curly afro, and a moustache on the go, it’s probably not a good idea to where a big Thin Lizzy t-shirt. Little Comets’ bassist looked like he’d been parachuted in from a Phil Lynott lookalike competition. Fair play though!

After a break listening to The Coral’s entire first album over the PA (a brave move perhaps, I was enjoying it a bit too much), Gomez finally made it to the stage and ripped straight into the tumbling riff of Shot Shot. My excitement at their choice of opener disappeared quickly, however, as they were obviously having a few sound problems, with feedback breaking my concentration. They’d made it louder too, with heavy distortion drowning out any intricacy, leaving a wall of muddy noise and vague riffage in place of the tune I knew and loved.


That opener really set the tone for the gig as they blasted into Bring it On (oddly off Liquid Skin, rather than the album of the same name) and they did the very same thing. It was loud and squelchy and lost that layered and textured sound that made Gomez interesting back in the day.

This theme continued with the old material, with the exception of Here Comes the Breeze and my set-highlight Get Myself Arrested. Those two proved to me that Gomez were missing a trick as they showcased the band’s real talent in turning catchy, poppy, bluesy songs into something different with liberal splashes of electronic glitches, saxophone, slide guitar and multiple vocalists. Even Whippin’ Piccadilly, a stone-cold guarantee of a jumping room in recent years, failed to get most of the audience off their feet. I was shocked.

As for the new material, well, it didn’t really take off for them. New single Options was a success, and got the quiet crowd going, but other more recent tracks let the room drift away and felt a bit bland compared to the energetic and meaty old stuff.


I think Gomez were caught between two stools on this occasion. They were trying to please fans of a different era and turn them on to the newer material. Unfortunately it felt like they were playing two separate sets that had been mixed together at random. Throw in some rain and a few technical issues and you have yourselves a difficult gig.

Perhaps that’s why they just didn’t seem that into it. Maybe they’re used to bigger and more active crowds in the US, so a wet day in Birmingham to a few hundred people just didn’t appeal. Either way, I was disappointed as I’d seen Gomez as recently as a couple of years ago and they were brilliant. Let’s hope it was just an off day for Southport’s stateside representatives.

Review – Ian Ravenscroft
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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