Live Review: Gomez; should R.E.M. have ended it in ’97?; Ragged Company, Travelling Mercies tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:19 pm September 22, 2011
Gomez at The Waiting Room, Sept. 21, 2011.

Gomez at The Waiting Room, Sept. 21, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

Ah the rise and fall and rise and fall of rock bands. I remember when Gomez was on its way up, when they were covering Beatles songs in Phillips lightbulb commercials. There was a sense that Gomez might be the next big thing, maybe the next Oasis? That was in 1998 when their debut, Bring It On, was released on Virgin. The band’s had its ups and downs over the past 13 years. One Omaha highlight: Playing at Memorial Park in 2009 to about 1,000 people.

Last night Gomez played to fewer than 200 people at The Waiting Room, but in its defense, the band sounded better than at that big outdoor shindig. If the British 5-piece has a sweet spot, it’s playing club gigs, where they have a better chance of connecting with the crowd — and they need all the help they can get with a stage presence that consists of standing (or sitting), singing and playing and nothing else. Dynamic they are not, but their music is so well-played — stunningly so — that in the confines of a space the size of The Waiting Room they can get the crowd grooving, at least as much as a band can that plays their rather safe style of indie/folk rock.

The hour-plus set balanced all three vocalists on songs that focused mostly on their new album but ranged back to their ’90s catalog. The older crowd did a grind to the familiar songs — you can’t call them “hits” because Gomez never really had one. In fact, while listening to this very pristine, very professional performance I was stricken at how no one player —  and no one song — stood out. There’s a comfortable, familiar ease to Gomez music – simple love songs with forgettable melodies that are pleasant and upbeat and completely unoffensive. I wonder what they’d sound like if they ever took some chances with their lyrics or arrangements, if they ever took a walk on the wild side…

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R.E.M. yesterday officially announced that they’re hanging it up for good after 31 years. The common rejoinder to the announcement on Facebook has been “I didn’t know they were still around.” They have been, though you wouldn’t know it based on how little traction their recent full lengths garnered in the media. To me the band never recovered when Bill Berry left in ’97, releasing five albums since then — including this year’s Collapse Into Now — that sounded flat and lifeless. Maybe they should have hung it up when Bill left? Who knows. At the end of the day, they had the heart but not the creative inspiration that made all their earlier albums so good. Even if they weren’t making interesting new music, it was nice knowing that they were out there trying. I don’t think you’ve heard the last of Stipe, Buck and Mills (or Berry for that matter). There will be other projects, solo efforts and one day, the inevitable reunion.

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It’s folk rock night at O’Leaver’s tonight when Ragged Company takes the stage with Travelling Mercies and Kindlewood. Get your yee-ha on for a mere $5. Show starts at 9:30.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

1 Comment »

  • I mostly agree with your assessment of R.E.M. post 97, though I would give one strong exception — 2008’s Accelerate. Great record, and the band’s most “rocking,” for lack of a better word, since the 80s.

    Comment by Dave — September 22, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

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