Review and Photos by Andy ArgyrakisPrior to going into U.K. rockers Gomez's first area show since Y2K, I assumed they'd be pretty stuck on themselves, given their prestigious list of accolades since their 1996 inception (which includes the Mercury Music Award and The Q Music Award). And let's face it, the group is certainly no stranger to taking themselves a bit too seriously, slaving around overblown bits of experimentation simply for the sake of raising eyebrows. But as Gomez's entrance music of Kenny Loggins' 80 soundtrack smash "Footloose" blared over the Vic Theatre's P.A., I quickly aborted my preconceived notions.
Gomez, circa 2002, is much more laid back, increasingly quirky, and a lot less pretentious than they were on their debut album Bring It On and their 1999 follow-up Liquid Skin. However, that doesn't necessarily make this year's In Our Gun significantly better, nor did letting their hair down exactly rivet the half-full venue. The group kicked off the set with the new disc's opener "Shot Shot," marking their evolution from a blues influenced modern rocking quintet into a cross between a Grateful Dead like jam band (minus the eternal solos and substance abuse) with idiosyncratic genre bending, a la Beck.
Unfortunately, Gomez couldn't command their audience's attention with slowly escalating grooves like the Dead and the often brilliant compositions of their latter muse, responsible for modern epics like Midnight Vultures and Mellow Gold. Instead, new tracks like the droopy acoustic number "Drench," the droned harmonies of "Into the Gun," and the goofy squash of "Army Dub" went virtually unnoticed and unappreciated during the show.
It wasn't until the band delivered renditions of respective fresh cuts "Ping One Down" (filled in with a chunky bass groove) and "Detroit Swing 66" (boasting slacker friendly spontaneity) that the pendulum swung in the band's favor. In concert, Gomez injected additional flavor into both tracks, which like the rest of their new material, could get somewhat lost in the shuffle after being culled from the abstract and sometimes distant world of the Gloucester manor in which the album was recorded.
Another interesting element to the evening, and Gomez in general, is the fact that there is no star front man, no lead singer, and no egocentric man-diva calling all the shots or pulling tightly on the group's reins. Rather, all the members take equal part in the writing and recording process with three of them taking turns stepping up to the microphone. Affiliates Tom Gray, Ben Ottewell, and Ian Ball all have a singing style of their own, but at the Chicago show, Ball's contributions were the most entertaining. In particular, his lyrical frolic on "Get Myself Arrested" (from Bring it On) marked the show's interactive pinnacle, with fellow album cut "78 Stone Wobble" (the band's inaugural single) following at a close second.
Thankfully, the band left out the cardinal sin of their catalogue, a cover of The Beatles' "Getting Better," which was further tainted by their sale of the rendering to Phillips Electronics. That may not make up for their far from enthralling toss up between dismal duds and mildly applauded semi-anthems, but at least it saved them from prolonged time in purgatory to purge away such a dastardly deed.
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