Gaz Coombes @ The Forum
In the mid 90’s it was hard to ignore Supergrass. They were everywhere from TFI Friday to TV adverts, and constantly on Radio 1, and underpinning it all was Alright, their worldwide hit from their debut album which introduced their killer sideburns and cheeky chappy tunes. But those who stuck with the band got to know a much more complex side to their music, especially on later albums like In It For The Money and Road To Rouen. However, the radio stations steadfastly stuck with Alright as being their only noteworthy tune. So when the band finally went their separate ways in 2010, it gave their frontman Gaz Coombes the ideal opportunity to plough a different and more interesting musical furrow.
So anyone who bought tickets expecting a bunch of old Supergrass hits at The Forum tonight would have been severely disappointed. Instead we were treated to a set of tunes that not only showed Gaz as a talented and varied musician, but also as a composer of some of the most inventive tunes on the music scene, moving effortlessly from simple guitar based love songs to huge soaring multi-layered anthems.
Although there’s a few numbers from his first album, tonight’s setlist is mostly comprised of songs from his second album Matador. Coming on in complete darkness he opens with the mid-paced and moody Needles Eye which provides a sombre opening, before moving straight into Sub-Divider from his first album. However, things start to really ramp up once he gets behind his trusty Waldorf piano which gives songs like Buffalo a real focus and a different dimension from the album’s version. It’s this transposition from the album to the live version which is the revelation for me tonight; songs which passed me by on the albums have a different feeling live and take on a new poignancy and have new layers revealed. One of These Days suddenly sounds like it was created by M83 at the start before moving to a complex interaction between drum rim patterns and percussion. Similarly, To The Wire becomes a huge soundscape that deserves to be a lot longer than it is, with a time signature that completely messes with your head. Throughout all this, Gaz flits between piano, acoustic guitar and electric guitar with hardly a blink, all supported by a backing band and choir of 3 “angels” placed to give him the space to be the focus of attention and feed on the energy of the crowd.
“This is the song I can’t get out of my head” shouts the woman to my left as soon as the opening chords of Girl Who Fell to Earth chime out, and it’s certainly one of the crowds favourites, as is 20/20 with its quirky Beach Boys-esque introduction and haunting melodies. This is easily my favourite track on Matador, and it would have been a great set closer, but instead this is reserved for Hot Fruit from his first album which gives an urgent, fast paced ending to events.
So ended a fantastic evening of complex layered songs, none of them sounding like the other, and which proved there is still some music out there which can’t be pigeonholed into a category, or which follows a set formula of verse-chorus and middle 8 solo. My only disappointment was the lack of banter between songs as Gaz seemed a modest and thoroughly endearing bloke, but this is a minor gripe. If you’ve got a ticket for any of the dates on the rest of his tour you’re in for a treat.
Review and Photography by Andy Sampson. And has his own great website right here: http://www.soundritualphotos.co.uk
Gaz Coombes at The Forum 9th October 2015.