Gig review: Gomez at O2 Academy Leeds

The photographs from 20 years ago are a stark reminder of our own mortality.

Gomez at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Gomez at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Four fresh-faced students played their first ever gig in 1996 at Hyde Park Social Club in Leeds and two years later had released their debut album, Bring It On.

The impact was immediate, the album winning the Mercury Music Price in the year of its release before going on to become platinum. The six subsequent albums never hit the same heights, not unsurprisingly, but do still give Gomez an impressive back catalogue of raw, guitar-based music with its roots firmly in the blues.

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It wouldn’t have been unreasonable for the band to approach a substantial UK and world tour, playing their eponymous debut from start to finish with a certain amount of trepidation. Would a crowd still hold their work in the same high regard? Was the alchemy still there? They should have had a hint of what was to come when the gig sold out weeks before the night, a widely ranging demographic in attendance.

Gomez at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

The option was there for Gomez take the route of least resistance, play the album note for note and not one person would have left disappointed. They did anything but. One of the biggest changes over the years had been in lead singer Ben Ottewell, from scrawny youngster to burly, bearded man, gruff singing voice acting as the perfect foil to both Ian Ball and Tom Gray’s.

As soon as Gray produced the opening notes of Get Miles, the venue lifted. This wasn’t lost on the band, they settled. Like Ottewell, this set was bigger, more powerful, had more brawn than the recorded version. The album provided the base, the live set built it to something entirely on a different plane.

Tijuana Lady is a stunning song in any regard but it took on another celestial form here, the crowd were already singing every word and didn’t need to be encouraged to drown out the opening bars of Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone but they were and they did. Get Arrested saw all four guitars combine to build to a euphoric cumulative end.

When the set strayed from Bring It On the impact was the same. Shot Shot was dug out for the ‘first time in a decade’, Blue Moon was introduced as epic and didn’t disappoint before the main set closed with Bring It On, full of melodic vigour and power.

There is of course the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. This could have had relevance about touring a much loved, two decade old album. The reason it didn’t is solely down to Gomez not trying to fix it, rather they replaced the engine, increased the horsepower and treated Leeds to one of the finest live performances that the city is likely to see all year.