Guitar loops and feedback fill the slightly middle-aged and incredibly good-humoured room. The band comes onstage, the loop stops; Gaz Coombes takes a bow, and synths and '80s beats take hold. Is this the second coming of the Supergrass frontman?
Coombes’ voice is unmistakeable. As he picks up a guitar and offers a quick “good evening,” the bass and drums rumble into ‘Hot Fruit’. It’s an unusual stage set-up, with the drummer stage right and the keys stage left, while the guitar and bass players are behind Coombes in the centre. Perhaps it’s an indication of how he writes the material: drums, rhythm guitar and keys at the forefront.
As an opening song, ‘Hot Fruit’ is so powerful that it could be an encore. The band are palpably energetic and the music is reassuringly loud.
A mention of 'Here Come The Bombs' doesn’t get much of a crowd reaction at all, but ‘Whore’ certainly does. Once Coombes starts singing the room is transported to ‘Pumping On Your Stereo’ enthusiasm levels.
Coombes sits at the piano to reveal a new song, ‘One Of These Days’. It’s an initially discordant and slightly out-of-time ballad, the drummer shuffling about to find Coombes’ rhythm, as opposed to the other way around.
As we arrive at ‘Sub-Divider’, the sound becomes artier. This intelligent and dance-influenced stretch into less-accessible musical territory is fantastic. There are chromatic changes, unexpected rhythm guitar riffs and tricky time signatures.
Coombes is back on keys for ‘Sleeping Giant’, another ballad that seems to roll over the top of the audience without garnering much attention. The show is good, but is it a vanity project or a career’s natural progression? Even the mighty ‘White Noise’ lacks impact.
Perhaps this is just not the best show of the tour, but it’s also possible that Coombes is stuck in his own shadow.
This doesn't last long, however. ‘Simulator’ is guitar-driven, upbeat and brings the crowd springing back to life. It’s surprisingly heavy and fast-paced. It's followed by the synth-heavy ‘Break The Silence’, which feels really strong and almost stadium-sized.
As he returns for an encore he looks genuinely grateful for the crowd’s response, and plays a beautiful acoustic version of ‘Moving’. The room goes wild with nostalgic joy. All questions of being sucked in by a stage act decades in the making are completely dissipated; it's an emotional moment.
It's a flawless encore, but then it’s Supergrass, isn’t it? Coombes is finding his footing still as a solo artist, but with such standouts in his catalogue already, gig attendees are guaranteed entertainment.
Words by Finn D'Albert
Photos by Rachel Lipsitz