Sometimes seeing a band you used to love can be a lot like answering that drunken, 2AM phone call from an ex. You know it’s not a good idea, but you do it anyways. Maybe you’re lonely. Maybe you’re bored.. Maybe you’re just taking advantage of a situation simply because you can. Invariably though, the reasons don’t matter, because the results are always the same. You wake up in the morning, likelihood of a hangover high, and spend the rest of the day dodging questions from your friends about what you did last night. Then, more often than not, you will spend the next few weeks avoiding phone calls from said ex until your next moment of weakness and the whole thing starts over again.
Seeing Gomez last Monday at the 9:30 Club wasn’t quite that bad, but damned if they didn’t give that experience a run for its money.
Way back in 1997 Gomez released the album Bring It On, an invigorating collection of songs that sounded nothing like anything else going on at the time, or maybe even since. It earned the band widespread acclaim amongst critics, and it seemed to be enough to carry them forward into a long and promising career. Building on that goodwill, 1999’s Liquid Skin surpassed the bar that the band hat set for itself on their debut. Then they took it even higher on 2002’s quasi-political statement of an album, In Our Gun. Based on those three albums alone, Gomez should be one of the biggest bands in the world right now. But something happened on the way to 2012, and the show that they played this past Monday seems to be the result of years of diminishing returns.
Coming off as less a band then a brand, Gomez delivered a string of their latter day “hits” like a group cashing in on the buzz of a reunion tour, only Gomez never broke up. Its members just moved to different parts of the world. That simple fact of geographic dislocation seems to have caused a disconnect not only in their music- in promoting 2011’s middling Whatever’s On Your Mind, they gleefully announced that much of it was recorded with the members of the band in different countries, and in some cases even different continents - but in their ability to function as a band with any hopes of entertaining it’s audience.
Ten to fifteen years ago this was a band that was excited to be playing to anyone, and that excitement was infectious. In 2012, Gomez seems to be simply going through the motions, with little to no actually engagement in the music they are making. To be fair, the material on the past few albums has ranged from “OK” to “meh”. And to be totally fair, it wasn’t until the past few albums that they used an outside producer, so make of that what you will. But that doesn’t excuse the members of Gomez looking flat out bored as the barreled through tracks like “Equalize”, “I Will Take You There”, and dammit even a wholly vapid rendition of “In Our Gun” - a song that by all rights should positively crackle with energy.
Eventually the band managed to lock in on being Gomez again in the second half of the show as they ran down the “Top Ten List” portion of the show. Decided by fans voting on the bands website for what songs they want to hear most, tracks like “Shot Shot”, “Revolutionary Kind” and “Get Miles” followed quickly by “Get Myself Arrested” (a double shot [shot] glimpse at what a great live Gomez used to be) managed to elevate the show ever so slightly above it’s by-the-numbers “charm.” But by that point it seemed not only too late, but practically a shame that they couldn’t had invested that level of energy in the rest of the show, regardless of the quality of the material they were performing.
All of that having been said, Gomez should be congratulated for sticking together these fifteen years. It’s an accomplishment by any measure, and one that hopefully they’ll make more of in the future. And therein lies the rub in this whole thing. As bad as an experience as I had at this particular show, the next time Gomez calls up at 2AM asking me to come over, it’s going to be hard not to resist. Somewhere deep down there’s gotta be the Gomez I fell in love with years ago right? That can’t be all gone, right?
“Sure thing Gomez. Let me just put on some clothes and I’ll be right over.”