Tag Archives: Supergrass

Live review: Gaz Coombes at ULU, London 28/2/18

Doing a handful of UK warm-up dates prior to the release of the album ‘World’s Strongest Man’ and a full UK tour in May, I catch up with Gaz Coombes and his band at the old University of London ULU building, now rebranded Student Central.

Stepping out on to a stage so packed out with twinkling retro sound equipment, kitsch standard lamps and vintage keyboards that the uninitiated may have mistaken it for a particularly camp car-boot sale, Coombes is clearly delighted that the crowd have braved the snow and ice to turn out for him.

My fascination with Gaz Coombes began when Supergrass first burst on to the scene in the mid 90s as that cheeky, wacky, slightly zany antidote to Blur and Oasis’s ongoing battle for the crown of Britpop. And since the band’s split in 2010 my fascination has continued as I’ve followed Coombes through his solo career – where he’s just about to release his third album ‘World’s Strongest Man’.

We began to get hints of a more mature, more introspective side to Coombes’ writing with the release of Supergrass’s third album, via tracks like ‘Moving’, and this is very much the path that his solo career has continued along. Coombes has eschewed any temptation to become a one-man Supergrass tribute and, save for the odd rendition from his former band like the aforementioned ‘Moving’, he’s tended to stick resolutely to solo material for his live shows. And, clearly, he’s now getting to the place where he’s got a really strong and growing body of work to draw from. Coombes’ first solo album ‘Here Comes The Bombs’ showed some real promise but was a somewhat austere electronica-influenced affair that took many by surprise. The second, the Mercury prize-nominated ‘Matador’ with its fuller production, beautiful melodies and sensitive song-writing understandably drew considerable praise from many quarters. With Coombes’ third album, however, it may well be that he’s on to something even more special.

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Photo credit: Steve Smith

Tonight’s set-list includes songs from all three albums but, unusually for a live gig promoting any new or soon-to-be-released album, the new songs were amongst the strongest and the most memorable and dare we say it the biggest crowd-pleasers. In terms of highlights tracks from the new album like current single ‘Deep Pockets’ sit really well alongside earlier material from the such as ‘Buffalo’, ‘Hot Fruit’, ‘20/20’ and ‘Matador’. And there’s no risk of austerity in terms of sound on this tour either: we have lush sonic textures on the keys, a captivating rhythm section and a divine-sounding trio of female backing singers supporting Gaz’s unmistakable voice and nifty guitar-playing.

Just as, nearly a quarter of a century ago, Supergrass grabbed my attention because I thought that they were doing something more interesting than either Blur or Oasis at the time, so it seems when it comes to the matter of solo careers, too. I am tempted to conclude that Coombes is doing something more interesting than either Damon Albarn or Noel Gallagher these days and I do think we are going to be in for a real treat when ‘Worlds’ Strongest Man’ is released.

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Photo credit: Tom Rose

http://www.gazcoombes.com/

Related reviews:
Gaz Coombes at the Roundhouse 2016
Gaz Coombes – Matador
Vangoffey at the Social 2016

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Vangoffey at The Social, London 14/3/16

Few who were following popular music in the mid 90s will forget Supergrass bursting on to the Britpop scene with Alright. But the band were always a multi-faceted animal. And since they split in 2010 lead vocalist, Gaz Coombes, has clearly carried the flame for the more reflective, soulful side of Supergrass into his deservedly well-received solo career. And the loud, spiky more punkish side of the band looks to have been taken on into bass-player Mick Quinn’s post-Supergrass outfit, the DB Band. But what then of the quirky, zany, wacky, britpoppy side of Supergrass? The side of Supergrass that most of us came across first before we were even aware of any other. Well step forward Danny Goffey. The erstwhile Supergrass drummer has re-emerged as the frontman for Vangoffey. And after a short tour in support of their debut album last year, Goffey and the band are back with a handful of dates showcasing their brand of chirpy, humorous indie pop-rock.

The Social is a long, narrow basement bar in London’s west end with a tiny, tiny stage at the far end. Indeed, it’s quite a cram getting Goffey, bass-player Drew McConnell (of Babyshambles), two guitarists and drummer, James Yates, on that stage. The band launch into Trials of a Modern Man, definitely one of the stand-out tracks from the album and probably the one that most closely channels the spirit of the hook-laden, slighly manic but instantly catchy Britpop-era Supergrass. I absolutely love it.

Race of Life – a funked-up Ian Drury-esque tale of the life of a sperm is less my cup of tea but the Ray Davies-esque Alfie Loves the Birds most certainly is. There’s plenty to enjoy here and Goffey is a witty and inventive songwriter who is more than capable of writing some catchy hooks. In this small but crowded venue the band are very well received. After working their way through all ten tracks on the album there are calls for an encore but that’s our lot. “We haven’t got any more songs yet,” explains Goffey.

I still hold out hope for a fully-fledged Supergrass reuinion at some point. But in the meantime it’s nice to see Danny Goffey come out from behind his drum kit and front a band. You wouldn’t want to see every drummer try this. But Danny Goffey pulls it off – the Phil Collins of Britpop…

Setlist
Trials of a Modern Man
Sucker
You, You, You
Alfie Loves The Birds
Race of Life
Beta Man
Episode
The No. 9
Phil’s Dummy
Spilt Milk

http://www.vangoffey.com/

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Gaz Coombes at The Roundhouse 28/1/16

If the size and prestige of venues says anything about an artist’s career then Gaz Coombes is on an upward curve. After seeing Coombes perform in some iconic venues in the Supergrass days, smallish (and as they say “more intimate”) club gigs have been the order the day for much of his post-Supergrass career thus far. And while those were great shows it’s nice to see him perform to a capacity crowd in Chalk Farm’s infamous Roundhouse tonight for the first in their current In The Round series.

For the first few numbers it’s just Gaz and his guitar on stage. Some beautifully intimate, stripped-back acoustic versions of Oscillate, Hot Fruit, Needle’s Eye and To The Wire from his two solo albums. Then he is joined, not only by his backing band but a full string ensemble. And the stage just fills with sound for a stunning version of Buffalo, the opening track from his latest solo album – the Mercury Prize-nominated Matador. While there’s evidently a certain degree of continuity with some of the more reflective tracks from later-era Supergrass, Coombes’ writing is maturing and tonight’s packed auditorium (not to mention the Mercury Prize nomination, of course) is a sign of the growing recognition of this. We are presented with lush, beautifully instrumented versions of songs from Here Come The Bombs and Matador. Highlights for me included a heartfelt Detroit, a lovely Girl Who Fell To Earth and a fabulous White Noise, probably one of the most Supergrassy songs of his recent career.

Although Coombes has rigorously avoided becoming a one-man Supergrass tribute act, endlessly churning out the back catalogue, he has often treated audiences to one or two renditions of iconic Supergrass material like Moving or Caught By The Fuzz. We get none of that tonight though. But what we do get is a glorious version of David Bowie’s Five Years. We can’t complain at all. The perfect and fitting encore to a stunning evening.

Setlist:
Oscillate
Hot Fruit
Needles Eye
To The Wire
Buffalo
Sleeping Giant
These Days
Detroit
White Noise
Seven Walls
The Girl Who Fell To Earth
20/20
English Rose
Matador
Five Years

http://www.gazcoombes.com/home/#ZIQPwIIF2P4KOtAo.97

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Previous review: Matador album review

Rock: album review – Gaz Coombes ‘Matador’

Released in January 2015 I’ve come late to this but I’ve been following Gaz Coombes’ career pretty much since Supergrass burst on the Britpop scene with Alright in the mid 90s. Matador is Coombes’ third album outside Supergrass. The first, a covers album with Danny Goffey, released just before Supergrass called it a day, had the sound and feel of Supergrass in all but name. His next (and first solo album) Here Comes The Bombs, was a starker and more experimental affair, with Krautrock electronica influences clearly present. Matador continues in that vein to some degree but has a more mainstream feel to it. More accessible certainly but altogether a stronger album with stronger tunes.

It’s mature, quality songwriting. It is unmistakably Gaz Coombes, though, and listerners will recognise many of Coombes’ classic trademarks: reflective, sensitively delivered Bolanesque vocals leading up to frenzied, more manic delivery on the hook lines. Opening track Buffalo is a case in point and wouldn’t sound unfamiliar to anyone acquainted with some of the later era, more reflective Supergrass material. Detroit is another beatiful track in the same vein. The Girl Who Fell To earth with some gentle acoustic guitar, lush instrumentation and lovely vocals is another track I instantly warmed to.

This album is proof that the post-Supegrass Gaz Coombes is making a valid contribution to the UK music scene and it’s little wonder it’s been nominated for this year’s Mercury prize. Will I play Matador as much as play I Should Co-Co, In It For The Money or Life On Other Planets? Probably not. Will I play it lots? Absolutely.

Released: January 2015

http://www.gazcoombes.com/home/#SRhaijYRWdeqyA83.97

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