Twenty years on from the release of seminal Brit pop album ‘I Should Coco’ Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes has quietly underwent a creative rebirth. Like a teen actor typecast and tied to a certain genre that needs to wait for their face to age before cinemagoers will allow their brains to disassociate the actor from their previous characters. Perhaps Gaz Coombes needed to retreat until his cheeky chappy brit pop persona faded into dust. Gaz Coombes certainly doesn’t looked aged as he takes to the stage of Whelan’s but he does look manlier.
Grown up Coombes has also produced his most mature record to date in the form of the Mercury Music Prize nominated ‘Matador’ it’s also one of his best releases to date a timely coincidence as the brit pop era reaches retrospective overdrive. Indeed ‘Matador’ is one of the best albums by anybody associated with that genre since 2000.
Tonight Coombes brings a solo interpretation of ‘Matador’ to a sold out Whelan’s. The setup is simple, Coombes, bounces between acoustic guitar and mellotron, occasionally using a loop pedal – to stack the guitar lines – and triggering drums backing tracks for some of the livelier material. This treatment of the tracks reveals something you wouldn’t normally associate with Coombes, impressive vocal control.
The frantic, high attitude, youthful bark of the past, replaced by a broad pallet of tones; sweet yet commanding, and capable of extreme, instantaneous dips and swells in volume with no loss of clarity.
Unlike Noel Gallagher, Coombes doesn’t rely on his back-catalogue to pad out a set, with only Moving and Caught By The Fuzz aired tonight. The material on offer from ‘Matador’ and 2012’s ‘Here Come The Bombs’ is more than enough to eliminate the want for Alright or Pumpin’ On Your Stereo.
The album spanning opening brace of Oscillate and Hot Fruit alerts the audience to the fact that this will not be a by the numbers performance. Coombes fills the audience in as he takes a seat for single Buffalo informing them that he’s reworked the songs for these solo shows, before returning to the guitar for Detroit.
Cleverly, Coombes doesn’t overstay his welcome on any instrument or overuse any of the electronic options at his disposal. He’s has clearly put a lot of effort into experimenting with the best way to perform each individual song. Many artists would opt for the easy option and sit behind a wave of backing tracks and loops, not exposing the fundamentals of their voice and rhythm playing to such scrutiny but Coombes clearly relishes the challenge of presenting his songs this way.
Sweeping ballad The Girl Who Fell To Earth is the spine-tingling highlight of the set with Coombes emotive refrains tugging on heartstrings with aplomb. 20/20, Matador and Needle’s Eye were other highlights of a brave and impressive set in terms of both delivery and approach.
Whether you call it a rebirth or a renaissance one thing is certain, Gaz Coombes is a man in the zone.