Whilst it’s hard to tell whether Gaz smiles wryly or gets frustrated with his frequent introduction as the ‘former Supergrass vocalist’ it shouldn’t need a neurology expert to understand just how far his persona has moved since his iconic moment as one of three grinning-hoodlums-on-bikes some 23 years ago.
Presently riding the fallout from the critical success of his latest two solo albums, a collection of songs which has seen him exceed the reputations of most of his former contemporaries, ‘Gaz 2.0’ (his expression) is living proof that hard work and focused effort plays a huge part in the development of both songwriting and narrative skills.
Bringing these songs alive tonight, Coombes, backed by a seven-piece multi-instrumental band, shapes his sound through interesting production techniques, ever-changing instruments and lush backing vocals, all of which mould to create the foundation for interesting stories about the challenges of living in an ever-changing, confusing, world. Standouts ‘Wounded Egos’, ‘Oxygen Mask’ and ‘Detroit’ provide testimony to a band, and a set of songs, reaping the esteem rewards which come when creative risks pay off.
Choosing to spend most of the evening singing in a precise falsetto, itself perhaps a deliberate attempt to separate himself from version 1.0, Gaz is on fine form tonight, evidenced at the point when the band step off stage and leave him to deliver the evening’s two most impactful moments. Starting with ‘The Oaks’, tonight stripped right back to a gentle piano tenderness, and followed up with a gorgeous acoustic guitar version of ‘The Girl Who Fell to Earth’, Gaz uses his solo time to remind us of tonight’s most lasting message: we all need love. Exposed and vulnerable ‘The Oaks’ and ‘The Girl’ are interesting throwbacks to the sounds of ‘In it for the Money’, simultaneously providing useful reminders that in between the in-jokes and the big smiles Coombes has always been ahead of his peers both in his willingness to experiment with his music as well as his desire to be honest with his audience.
With fine songs, inspiring messages, and an everlasting motivation to find new sounds, there’s no doubt that the young boy on the bike would be proud of the man he would grow up to become. Make of that what you will Mr Freud.