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Review: Gaz Coombes – 24/10/18 – Riverside, Newcastle

30/10/2018

Encasing an earnest performance in a thick glam sheen, Gaz Coombes made his mark on a packed Riverside crowd with a tremendous set that spanned his solo output…

It was clear to see that people were eager, especially for a Wednesday night, as the venue was relatively full when support act Willie J Healey took to the stage.

He rewarded them for their punctuality with a storming set. This traversed dreamy Mac DeMarco-esque chill right through to choppy lo-fi rock tunes you can’t help but move to.

He had an easy rapport with the crowd, revelling in audience jabs about his questionable choice of knitted hat. Although he did offer to make them on request – the sign of a true hustler.

Running us through a catalogue of tracks, some with lyrics celebrating the mundanity of life skipping across rough and ready chord-work and ear-worm riffs. His newer material (from 2018 album ‘666 Kill’) hit all the right notes and certainly earned him a few new fans.

They packed plenty into a short set but all good things must come to an end, leaving a pumped up audience ready to welcome the headliner.

Gaz Coombes isn’t one to pass up on the opportunity for theatrics. As soon as he and his group took to the stage it was clear that visuals were as integral to the performance as the music itself.

The core musicians (including Coombes) were dressed up in outfits reminiscent of US tourists in Cuba – think floral shirts under flamboyant suits. Meanwhile the backing singers wore pop art dresses and incorporated everything from tambourines to lollies into their routines.

Kicking things off with the title track to his most recent album ‘World’s Strongest Man.’ Built on a swaggering, stripped-back riff, it escalates to incorporate the synth elements that run throughout the record. Everything is pulled together by Coombes’ haunting falsetto. it was a confident opener that set the tone for the rest of the night.

Things changed deftly from heavier tracks like the relentlessly catchy ‘Hot Fruit’ from his debut ‘Here Come The Bombs’ to quieter, piano-led pieces such as the self-reflective ‘Shit (I’ve Done It Again)’. There was a striking amount of variety from a solo artist with 3 albums’ worth of material to draw from.

When Coombes interacted with the crowd it was generally to ask how people were doing, a slightly self-conscious tic that underscores the introspective themes of his music. That isn’t to say he wasn’t enjoying himself, you can always tell right from the off if a band’s heart isn’t in their performance but his was front and centre.

In seemingly no time at all, the encore had rolled round and fans were trying to negotiate his promise of 3 more songs into 5. While they might not have gotten the quantity they were after, they weren’t shortchanged on quality and his closer, the title track from 2015’s critically acclaimed ‘Matador’ was easily one of the evening’s highlights.

All in all it was a great night of high calibre performances from both Gaz Coombes and his tremendous support Willie J Healey. Their enthusiasm for the craft almost made you forget there were two more days of graft until the weekend, almost.

PHOTOS: VICOTRIA WAI

WORDS: JOHN PATTERSON

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