Gomez with Jon Bryant at the Commodore Ballroom, 6/27/18
Wednesday was a big night at the Commodore Ballroom. The barricade was chest high and the stage was littered with musical instruments, mostly of the stringed variety. The crowd was there to help celebrate the 20 year anniversary of Bring it On, the ground-breaking and award-winning debut album from Gomez, the five piece indie band from England.
First up, though, was Halifax native Jon Bryant. Last week was a big one for Bryant, whose single “Paradise” managed 100k listens after being released only two weeks ago. This was also the affable singer-songwriter’s first performance at Vancouver’s premier concert venue. Bryant has the type of voice that radio ballads are made of and his songs highlight the rich tones of his mid range. After a number of acoustic numbers, Bryant plugged in and closed his set by showcasing his vocal prowess by mixing Chris Issac’s classic “Wicked Game.” He’s an artist worth checking out.
Any true Gomez fan talks for hours about how ground-breaking that first album of theirs was. From it’s experimental sounds to its diverse, genre-bending styles, the timeless lyrics, rich harmonies, and the musical depth and breadth of it’s band members, it truly is an album that anyone who considers themselves a music aficionado will have in their collection.
For the 20th Anniversary Tour, Gomez played the album in its entirety from top to bottom. The five English lads from Southport have definitely matured over the years, but they haven’t lost any of their love for their craft. Fans were treated to many extended versions of long beloved songs while the band jammed their way through a nostalgia laden set.
The band seamlessly wove the psychedelic sounds of “Get Miles,” the simpler, bluesy style of “Make No Sound,” the almost pop feel of “Here Comes the Breeze” and the frat house classic “Get Myself Arrested” into what ended up feeling like one big number.
If you get the feeling like there was a little bit of everything going on, you’d be right. Off stage, there was some dancing, a little fist pumping, and a lot of fans singing along. On stage things changed from song to song. The most constant sight was Tom Ball intently focused on the sounds emanating from his guitar. Either kneeling beside a vast array of pedals or throwing down the odd power strum, adding the right sound to the mix always seemed to be his number one priority.
Although Ben Ottewell’s notoriously raspy vocals haven’t changed much in 20 years (thankfully), his appearance certainly has. He always manages to look the part. Back in the day it was that of music geek extraordinaire and today he seems right at home sporting a beard amidst numerous guitar changes, hand claps and leading vocals.
It’s not often you get to watch a band with three lead vocalists and a group of artists that play different instruments throughout the evening. But that’s part of the allure of Gomez, part of the reason why fans are drawn to them and why those fans are typically curious about what’s coming next. Wondering where Tom Gray’s enthusiasm is going to land him next or how Olly Peacock and Paul Blackburn will take the beat and transform the song.
It’s hard to pick a highlight on an evening with such a heavy helping of diversity. Perhaps it was how much “Here Comes the Breeze” sounded like Phish was covering it, or the sing-along that ensued during fan favourite “Air stream Driver.” It could have been the way the set closed – with an epic version of the single “Bring it On,” which ironically, is from their second album Liquid Skin. The quintet seemed to be in the zone for this number, carefully building the acoustics to a crescendo to close the set.
The encore that followed was also amazing: two songs with ample jam time. There is no doubt that Gomez could continue touring based on their current catalog of songs, but it sure would be a treat for fans if the quintet had another album in them soon.