Gomez, The Zutons – Melkweg, Amsterdam, 20th May 2004

Maybe Gomez are finally losing those blues

Maybe Gomez are finally losing those blues

Punctuality is not something I admire in a band, but it’s the cross that the support band has to bear. This, coupled with my lust for Guinness, means I miss the opener ‘Zuton Fever’. Walking in half way through ‘Pressure Point’ it seems like the Fever is catching. The typically gangly bass man is piling it on, and much of the crowd are already surprisingly mobile. ‘Havana Gang Brawl’ follows and it’s a jumpy little beggar that feels like ska without actually being ska, or maybe even Sultans of Swing without being either dire or straight, but the Zutons are a hard band to pin down musically. Especially for me.

You see, I have a confession to make. I’ve got a saxophone problem. Part beautiful instrument, part worried goose as far as I’m concerned and although Abi Harding uses both of these qualities admirably, I can’t help thinking that on some songs, like a dog licking it’s balls, The Zutons are doing it just because they can.

‘Confusion’, is a drinking song. Not that it’s got anything to do with drinking, it’s just that as soon as it’s slower, country feel is heard in the room, half the audience bogs off to the bar. They come back refreshed, however, and as ‘Long Time Coming’ pounds in to life, the heads and arms start to rise out of the bouncing crowd, and even my sax worries are dispelled as the set draws to it’s finale. New single ‘You Will, You Won’t’ has a real funk-soul feel but the live version is a much harder, sharper, singalong stomp than its recorded twin.

Singer Dave McCabe then picks up a melodica (among other things) for a gratuitous closing jam called ‘Zuton Khamun’ that goes from Egyptian nursery rhyme to Absolutely Live in dub and beyond…….and the kids love it. Considering the crowd is here to see Gomez, most of them are suitably impressed by The Zutons and this bunch of young scallies drop their guitars as if throwing down a gauntlet. Follow that Gomez.

And so the beer muffs are on and the smoke screen is down, but Gomez rise to the challenge by opening with the tripped out space blues of ‘Bring It On’. Cavernous, carnivorous vocals, pounding beats and raucous guitars is a recipe for success in anyone’s Rock n’ Roll cookbook and it’s already apparent that Gomez are a serious live proposition. Meanwhile, someone lights the blue touch paper on Tom Gray and he bounces out from behind his keyboard like Ken Dodd on coke and tries to whoop everyone into a frenzy. ‘Shot Shot’ is as hard and rough as Lee van Cleef’s chin and full of menace.

The charm offensive continues with ‘Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone’, as always a fantastic vehicle for Ben Ottewell’s voice. If I were a lass I’d be considering waxing my bikini line and diving into his gene pool. A couple of bairns with a voice like that could provide very well for an elderly parent.

The first offering from their new album Split The Difference is ‘Catch Me Up’, and maybe Gomez are finally losing those blues. “This Is Pop”, in the words of Andy Partridge, and it brings to mind XTC, The Pretenders, even The Jam. ‘These 3 Sins’ is more 1969 than 1979 with shuffling, railroad beats and full, wide harmonies.

Of the other Split the Difference songs on offer tonight ‘Nothing Is Wrong’, seems almost precision designed for American college radio, while ‘Sweet Virginia’ is slower but guaranteed to have at least one State whooping at the very mention of it when they head back for more dates in the U.S. this summer.

It’s the older material that, unsurprisingly, gets the crowd into gear as well as Tom Gray who is apparently the only member of the band who can speak. Once again he incites the crowd to “make some noise”, and we duly oblige after an enormous, pounding rendition of ‘Ping One Down’. ‘In Our Gun’ keeps the tempo down, but we’re hanging on every note and then the place goes bananas as the dance rhythms of the songs crescendo ending kick in. Good arrows.

Pounding bass and plinky guitars signal the start of ‘Fill My Cup’ which is another stoner classic with layer upon layer of vocals and samples and mood swings aplenty. They are preaching to the converted now and ‘Do One’, the opener from the new album closes the set and the crowd unsurprisingly want, and get, more.

The guys at the record company must be wringing their hands with glee because Gomez are mastering the art of pop songs. ‘Silence’ is a top pop song, and probably has the most hit potential since ‘Whipping Piccadilly’. Then it’s back to the old days for ‘Bring Your Loving Back Here’ and the excellent ‘Revolutionary Kind’.

Once again Gomez leave the stage with much mopping of brows and the audience hop, whoop and holler themselves hoarse, to be rewarded with another 20 minute journey through Gomez history. From the syncopated, stereophonic unease of ‘We Don’t Know Where We’re Going’, which has more than a touch of the Kurt Cobain about it, through the clever, confused rhythms of ‘Detroit Swing 66’ and the stripped down X-ray version of ‘We Haven’t Turned Around’. Only when we hear Piccadilly getting well and truly whipped do we know the game is up, and we all toddle off sweaty, deaf and satisfied. Mission accomplished.

Simon Reed