Category Archives: The Band

Rocks In The Attic #804: The Band – ‘Moondog Matinee’ (1973)

RITA#804If The Band had been born thirty years later, and were from Southport, they’d be called Gomez. Stay with me here…

Not only is there a rootsy vibe going on in both bands, but they both feature multiple vocalists and occasionally swap instruments. The biggest difference, apart from time itself, is their nationality. The Band are Americana incarnate whereas Gomez couldn’t be more English. Members of The Band have strange North American names like Levon and Garth, while Gomez have middle-class English names like Tom, Ben and Olly.

I first saw Gomez when they were touring second album Liquid Skin, on the Other Stage at Glastonbury 1999. Last week, twenty years later, I finally saw them for the second time. They played at Auckland’s fantastic Powerstation, as part of their Liquid Skin 20th Anniversary tour, a full seven years after the last time they graced our shores. I missed the 2012 show for some reason, but really glad I caught this one: a full play-through of their 1998 debut Bring It On, followed by a full performance of Liquid Skin.

RITA#804aI’m glad to report the years have been kind. When I first saw them, I was as curious as everyone else at the voice of guitarist Ben Ottewell. In 1999, he was just a podgy twenty-something with a much bigger voice than himself. He’s now grown into his vocal chords, a genial bear of a man. Performing live, he was dependant on too much reverb, but you could still hear the magic in his soulful voice. It reminded me a bit of Simon Fowler from Ocean Colour Scene, another band I recently saw at the same venue.

The rest of the band were exactly the same as I remember them from ’99. The genial Tom Gray (vocals / guitar / keyboards) talked the most to the audience. Twenty years ago I remember him telling the Glastonbury crowd to turn around a look at the sunset. He hasn’t changed a bit. Neither has the other guitarist / vocalist Ian Ball. Still as scrawny as he was all those years ago, he’s the most cocky and aloof of the three frontmen. Drummer Olly Peacock hasn’t aged a day, and the only real casualty of the band is the hairline of bassist Paul Blackburn, now fully shaved.

Given the type of material of the three songwriters, it is Ball’s songs that seem the most normal – straightforward post-Oasis Britpop that you would hear in any band (including my own) from that time around the late ‘90s. It’s the mixture of Ottewell’s southern-fried soul and Gray’s jazzy melodies that gives Gomez their unique sound. If anything, it feels like Ball is the lucky one of the three, for finding other songwriters that would provide an interesting counterbalance to the ordinariness of his own material.

After they played through both albums, they returned to the stage for just one song – a frantic, AC/DC-inspired version of Whippin’ Picadilly, played ‘like we did when we were teenagers.’ A magical night, for sure, and I still made it home to watch the All Blacks beat Wales to take bronze in the World Cup.

RITA#804b
I’m serious about the comparison to The Band though. And of all the Band’s LPs, studio album number five, Moondog Matinee, is perhaps the most Gomez-ey. It’s one of the more kookier entries in the Band’s back catalogue, and finds them recording an entire album’s worth of cover songs.

The original idea was to replicate their mid-‘60s setlists, when they were known as Levon & The Hawks, but only one song – Share Your Love (With Me) – from this period appears. It sounds like a happy album, but the reality was a band starting to come apart at the seams. ‘That was all we could do at the time,’ Levon Helm later explained. ‘We couldn’t get along; we all knew that fairness was a bunch of shit. We all knew we were getting screwed, so we couldn’t sit down and create no more music. Up on Cripple Creek and all that stuff was over—all that collaboration was over, and that type of song was all we could do.’

Hit: Ain’t Got No Home

Hidden Gem: Mystery Train

RITA#804c

Rocks In The Attic #623: The Band – ‘Music From Big Pink’ (1968)

RITA#623I recently saw The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese’s film of the final Band performance in 1976. I don’t know why I had avoided this for so long; perhaps it was the feeling that when you’ve seen one classic rock superstar concert line-up, you’ve seen them all. “Get Eric Clapton on the phone, we’re having a get-together.” Or perhaps it was the suspicion that Scorsese’s presence might taint the Band, just like his sycophancy for the Rolling Stones has left that band a little less dangerous.

Watching the film – which I enjoyed immensely – I was struck by the feeling of how inadequate my collection of Band records is. I have this, their classic debut, and I also have their self-titled follow-up, but that’s it. No more. Zilch.

Of course, I’ve been operating under the illusion that that’s all I needed, and that if I made the effort to check out their later recordings then I’d be disappointed. But watching the 1976 version of the group perform in The Last Waltz, it seems like the Band couldn’t write a bad song if they tried.

My favourite guest star in The Waltz was Joni Mitchell – another artist seriously under-represented in my record collection. I have Ladies Of The Canyon, Blue and The Hissing Of Summer Lawns, but I need more, so much more. I might grow my hair and start wearing flares this summer.

Hit: The Weight

Hidden Gem: Chest Fever

Rocks In The Attic #19: The Band – ‘The Band’ (1969)

 

Who can’t love this album? Surely it’s impossible. To me, this and its predecessor Music From Big Pink (1968) are like Rubber Soul and Revolver – two back-to-back classics with mostly interchangeable songs. Or Toys In The Attic and Rocks for Aerosmith fans.

I think I prefer Music From Big Pink as it sounds ever so slightly rougher around the edges. That album sounds like a bunch of guys who had a great idea of making an album, this one sounds much more like they’re hitting their stride.

Levon Helm, the band’s drummer, died not too long ago and it was nice to see a wealth of respect paid to him from the music world. There was a documentary about him playing at the Auckland film festival last year which I couldn’t get to see, but I’ll hopefully get to see it one day.

Hit: Rag Mama Rag

Hidden Gem: Jawbone