Gaz Coombes At Whelan’s – Review & Photos
Gaz Coombes has had a bit of a creative rebirth as of late. Probably best known as being the frontman for britpop heroes Supergrass, he has once again come to the limelight with solo material. Now promoting his sophomore album Matador, he has been mercury award nominated and universally acclaimed for his electronic tinged LP of darker, more experimental pop tunes.
The man himself walks onstage tentatively, smiling like the cheeky chap he’s been known as for twenty years. Except now, the fast paced guitar pop has been replaced by a more mature craft of songs. The drum machine driven ‘Oscillate’ opens the set, straight away setting the tone for the evening. Accompanied by loop stations, a few acoustics and a keyboard, the one man band impresses immensely with tunes like ‘Hot Fruit’ and the powerful ‘Buffalo’. The latter blows most away with his soaring vocals, still as powerful and precise as ever.
Charming anecdotes precede tunes like this year’s ‘Detroit’, a lulling guitar ballad that excels in it’s simplicity. Despite the drastic change in style here, the new tunes all retain that irresistibly catchy sense of melody that Gaz is known for. Many fans sing along, an astonishing thing considering how fresh the material is. The acoustic reworking of ‘Needles Eye’ is breathtaking, and is mind numbingly perfect considering all the production that has been cut out to taper for a solo performance. Again, Coombes’s vocals are so full of soul it’s almost tear jerking.
Now taking things up a peg or two, we’re treated to an unexpected rendition of Supergrass classic, ‘Moving’. The strum of the gorgeous open chords evoke sheer delight from all, and even get the singing voices going. Not a single line in the song isn’t sung back to the man for the whole performance. It really is one of those ‘I was there’ moments. It’s quite a beautiful thing to watch, four hundred fans of all ages united in ecstacy for five glorious minutes. Gaz himself is pitch perfect again of course, but that hardly mattered.
Now coming towards the end of the set, another highlight comes via 2012’s ‘White Noise’. Possibly the finest piece of music Coombes has composed since the golden days, and probably just as good. The quintessential English melancholy tone is absolutely nailed here, with heavenly melodies and tense yet soothing instrumentation going on. The chorus of ‘I’m always trying to tell you, I got problems that I can’t work out’ is utterly mesmerising. ‘The Girl Who Fell To Earth’, is the last big tune, with more adoring fans shouting the coda back up to the Gaz. What a way to finish.
Surely returning for an encore, the short title track of Matador runs into a last anecdote about a night of Coombes’ youth where he got arrested for possession of a certain substance. This of course, is the tale that the 1995 belter ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ is based on. More cries of sheer joy and laddish singing accompany this perfect end to a damn perfect gig. Grinning rather deservedly to himself now, he leaves the audience captivated beyond belief.
It’s not that often that a pop star seemingly long past his prime comes back and writes an album as good or better than he’s ever done. Gaz Coombes has risen above any qualms that he was just a britpop pinup. Besting the likes of Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher easily, 2015 has been a monumental year for dear Gaz, and tonight’s show is all the proof you need.
Review by Finn O’Reilly
Photos by Tudor Marian