“If there’s one person in the world who doesn’t need help singing this song, Ben, it’s you,” Tom Gray jokes. It’s true – his bandmate Ben Ottewell’s request for us to “help” him sing ‘Make No Sound’ isn’t serious. He just wants to test us, and of course we oblige, the band grinning with delight.
The 20th anniversary of Gomez’s Mercury Prize-winning debut album Bring It On didn’t feel like an attempt to rehash and cash in on the past, as so many tours of its kind do. All they have ever prioritised is the music. Gomez never take themselves too seriously, always remaining humble. They actually looked like they couldn’t believe we were belting out every song word-for-word. You get the sense that, since their inception in 1996, these childhood best friends from the North-West have genuinely relished every minute of their success. This was palpable on Sunday, with each member lapping up the loyalty of their fans old and new (mostly old). It’s particularly poignant that their first ever gig was in Leeds.
Gomez stormed through Bring It On in order, opening with the blinding, guttural ‘Get Miles’. Critics never fail to comment on Ottewell’s distinctive growl and how unbelievable it was that he was only twenty. Now over forty, the voice matches the body it comes out of. Fellow lead singer Ian Ball still sounds like a teenager, however, with his softer nineties drawl. Both are pitch-perfect for the entire show. Each member demonstrates incredible virtuosity, especially multi-instrumentalist Tom Gray, who flits from synth, to bass, to guitar, to vocals, all while bouncing around the stage with unbridled, infectious joy.
The highlights were ‘Whippin’ Piccadilly’, the achingly beautiful ‘Tijuana Lady’ with silly lyrics about sombreros and ponchos, and the swirling psych banger ‘Rie’s Wagon’. They ended a perfect night with other popular tunes from their back-catalogue. Describing themselves as ‘alternative indie’ in their Twitter bio, this does them a huge disservice. Gomez have consistently managed to set themselves apart from their contemporaries, forming a sound that’s uniquely theirs, incorporating multiple genres and diverse influences.
It was one of those surreal gigs for me. Countless car journeys were sound-tracked by Bring It On; it’s a childhood album that I still treasure. Their decision to celebrate its 20th anniversary with this tour allowed fans like me to experience the magic of hearing those recordings brought to life.