Live review: Gaz Coombes at Oran Mor, 19/11/13

gaz_oranmor2This short tour of churches aims to be something a little different for the former Supergrass frontman, having chosen “the most atmospheric and beautiful venues in the UK” he has rearranged songs from his solo album Here Come The Bombs especially to suit the natural reverb of the venues.

The luxuriantly bearded singer seems happy to be here, “isn’t this a bit bloody lovely,” he exclaims as he takes in his brightly decorated surroundings, a backdrop of fairy lights highlight the cosiness of the venue and the seated audience settle in for tracks from the album.

‘White Noise’ with its deceptively dark lyrics and a stripped down acoustic version of ‘Hot Fruit’ lose some the clamour of the recorded versions, but accentuate the soulful tinge of the mature Coombes vocal style.

A newer song, ‘The Girl Who Fell To Earth,’ builds on electronic beats alongside an acoustic arrangement, blooming into organic percussion.

Coombes sips red wine and plays laidback electric piano, these solo numbers strive to be taken seriously, while summer single, ‘One Of These Days’ is elegiac and flexes his emotional Elbow.

Anyone expecting the hectic pace of a Supergrass gig would be sorely disappointed, this is slower, more mellow, perhaps more fitting for the 37 year old Coombes, this is a new paradigm for grown up rock stars.

At the back of the stage, Loz Colbert, once of fellow Oxfordians Ride, plays his drums with beaters, a sure sign of emotional and musical maturity.

The other new single, ‘Buffalo’, has a more dramatic structure and even if it never really pays off, the audience still loves it.

gaz_oranmor7‘Bombs’ sees Coombes clearly enjoying the acoustics of the venue, his brother Charly provides squishy electronics and a piano breakdown verges on going a bit Elton John without the plot.

Recalling memories of 1995’s T in the Park and his band’s triumphant first Scottish gig provokes a large reaction from those in the crowd who were there, but is just a tease and they’ll have to wait a bit longer for an oldie.

‘To The Wire’, another new song, finally makes it apparent that what we’ve been missing is some electric guitar, which adds much needed dynamism.

Coombes returns for an encore: “an old song that I wrote when I was picked up by the local constabulary, pretty difficult when you’re hands are behind your back in cuffs.”

It seems he’s not so concerned with being taken seriously that he would miss out on continuing that legend, a sing along to an acoustic version of ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ follows.

‘Low C’ from Supergrass LP Road To Rouen proves that contemplative tunes aren’t just a latter development and demonstrates continuity in the song writing.

A pause to wipe his beard, then closer ‘Break The Silence’ builds up to a standing ovation for a big final chorus.

Mellowed out he may be, but Gaz Coombes remains a distinctive entertainer, if a little more earnest than of old.

more photos

Words: Lucy Brouwer
Photos: Michael Gallacher

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