The twentieth-anniversary celebrations of Gomez’s Mercury Award-winning debut album almost never got off the ground. When acclaimed support artist John Smith (having previously supported Richard Hawley) took to the stage, a pleasant folk guitar could be heard; but the decibels of his vocals were that of a canary that has been sent down a mine several hours ago and no one had seen or heard from it since. This naturally displeased the Royal Albert Hall audience.
Things got so bad that after the first song, Smith had to temporarily exit the stage whilst the sound engineers anxiously and hastily looked to find and remedy the fault. Within five minutes all was right, Smith was welcomed back on stage with cheers and jubilations. The crowd were able to be captivated by Smith’s gruffly lion-like confident and commanding Ray Lamontagne folksy style voice as he sang songs which had been played in Coop stores as well as a song about his hometown, “a fishing village where people go to die”. A 78 Stone Wobble that had tried to crash land in an attempt to dash and destroy the anniversary show of Gomez’s debut was successfully averted and John Smith emerged as the hero. The crowd were in positive spirits; all that was left now was for Gomez to Bring it on!
As promised and expected; Gomez began with Get Miles, the legendary Bring It On album opener. Heavily experimental, indirectly psychedelic, mellow, yet producing adrenaline rushing effects was the antithesis to what was trending in the late nineties. This confirmed gem sounded more enigmatic live than ever; Ben Ottewell‘s gruffly New Orleans style rhythm and blues booming voice was still peaking. Ottwell’s vocal fire and passion cannot be understated. Gomez would play their Bring It On LP in its original order. When Whippin’ Piccadilly naturally followed, the audience looked back on halcyon days and joined Gomez singer number two: Ian Ball in with dancing and singing.
The emotional tone changed with the mellower and more haunting Make No Sound. This was perfected thanks to the help of a young boy (whose right arm was covered in plaster following a skateboarding accident) who adroitly played the cello in perfected hallowing harmony with the rest of the band. 78 Stone Wobble would introduce Gomez vocalist number three: Tom Gray. As on the original album edition, he used electronic engineering to produce an added muffled static radio effect to his vocals alongside Ian Ball.
Twenty years ago it was very difficult (if not impossible) to pick just a few of your favourite tracks from Bring it On and even harder to select ones least favourable tracks of that album. As the songs had an added element (or soul) live, it is difficult to single out highlights. It is easier to single out songs which were more instantly catching and single ready than others; but Bring it On was always conceived an indie lo-fi grower; hence the loudness and number of people singing along to choruses and verses of one Gomez song over another is an inadequate benchmark in accessing audience feedback to the tracks on Bring it On. Bubble Gum Years seemed to be the tearjerker but had the set ended with nine-minute penultimate album closer Rie’s Wagon, Rie’s Wagon could easily have been crowned as the tear-jerking champion.
Following playing Bring it On back to back to perfection, Gomez continued to enchant the audience with Shot Shot, Blue Moon Rising, Machismo, We Haven’t Turned Around, Bring it On (from Liquid Skin) and following an encore, played out with Revolutionary Kind. The collective strengths Gomez still possess (which allowed them to produce a debut seeing off the likes of The Verve’s Urban Hymns and Massive Attack’s Mezzanine and get Bring it On voted by BBC Radio 6 Music listeners as their favourite Mercury Prize-winning album to date) is their (musical and physical) individuality and trend-defying philosophy. After all, how many other bands have three vocalists and make this work to perfection?