Gomez Grooves Greatly

We didn’t know it until about an hour or so before showtime, but we wound up seeing Gomez’s last North American summer tour date last night at Terminal 5 in NYC.

The reason, as noted here: key bandmember Ben Ottewell — a thirtysomething British lad with the singing voice of a 75-year-old bluesman — was ordered by doctors to rest his voice for no less than 2 weeks. A bummer for fans wanting to see them now now NOW, but ultimately the right call in preserving Ottewell’s golden throat for the long term.

To me, Gomez is a modern-day version of the Band — versatile and organic, and not easily categorized. Could they handle this late-breaking curveball? In a word: Yep! What we got last night was a revamped setlist that saw their two other lead singers, Ian Ball and Tom Gray, tag-team it even more than usual. The packed-house audience was totally okay with it too, singing along quite loudly to favorite groovers like “Get Myself Arrested” and “Airstream Driver.”

We were also treated to a slew of other ’Mez faves like the galloping set opener “Shot Shot,” “Girlshapedlovedrug,” “Sweet Virginia,” a jouncy take on “Ruff Stuff,” and a particularly funky and aggressive “Detroit Swing ’66” (a.k.a. “Peace Pipe”). Usually, we only get a smattering of these tracks, so the missus and I (who have both seen Gomez at least 10 times) were very pleased from our stage-right perch up on level 2.

I should also note that Ottewell appeared onstage with the band all night — albeit sans a vocal mike, but he attacked his black Les Pauls and pedalboard perhaps even more than usual. ”Big Ben is pissed off!” noted Ball toward the end of the set. Strife or no, Gomez delivered about 90 minutes of great music. I can’t wait to see them again when they’re back at “full strength.”

BTW — I sat down with Gomez multi-instrumentalist Tom Gray in New York this past Wednesday to talk about the band’s approach to playing live (“we want to make the audience feel closer to us”) and other things we all love (like, yes, vinyl!). Our extended interview will appear here soon, in print in the October issue, and on our iPad edition. In the meantime, I suggest cueing up their new song “Options” — you know I wouldn’t steer you wrong when it comes to cool tunes.

— MM