Gomez Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC - February 4, 2004

The first published record review I ever wrote was of 1999's Liquid Skin, the sophomore album by England's Gomez. In it, I described the Southport-based six-piece as "one of the best new rock bands in the world." Yikes, what dark days for rock those must have been, because when the Brits took the stage in Vancouver on a recent weekday night, they scarcely resembled the aces I'd once touted them as. Instead, the capacity crowd witnessed one of the loosest live displays in recent memory — a messy two-hour exercise in jam-band revivalism that left me cold. Luckily for the Brits, I was in the minority that night, as a roomful of Anglophiles lapped up every careening guitar solo and sloppy drum fill, revelling in the cheeba-fuelled musical mayhem blaring through the Commodore's commendable sound system. What is it about jam bands that elicit such a fervent reaction from their followers? At the very least, groups like Phish are comprised of highly talented players that are able to craft hypnotic passages of cyclical sound, casting a trance-like spell over listeners. Gomez's musicians, meanwhile, are competent at best, a point hammered forcefully home every time they tacked an "improvised" tag onto a well-known song. The sole highlight of the night was their rendition of "Revolutionary Kind," a lilting admixture of acoustic guitars, bongo drums, echoed sighs and dreamy computerised accents. Anchored by singer Ben Ottewell's whiskey-coated vocals, the song encapsulates all of the sextet's strengths, a point made all the more sadly clear when Ottewell's band-mate Tom Gray stepped to the mic to deliver a new batch of songs. Marred by their straightforward country-rock approach and Gray's vocal inadequacies, Gomez's new material leaves me no reason to believe that the band's forthcoming album will revive my interest in their music. But don't try telling that to the 1,000 or so punters who lapped up every second of this show.