It's always cause for celebration when the picturesque and acoustically pleasing Ford Theater hosts a rare rock event, and more so when the evening's headliner is of Gomez's caliber. The venue's sympathetic surroundings, nestled up in the Hollywood Hills near the Cahuenga Pass, boosted the diverse, guitar-driven jam-inations of the promising, ambitious English band.

It’s always cause for celebration when the picturesque and acoustically pleasing Ford Theater hosts a rare rock event, and more so when the evening’s headliner is of Gomez’s caliber. The venue’s sympathetic surroundings, nestled up in the Hollywood Hills near the Cahuenga Pass, boosted the diverse, guitar-driven jam-inations of the promising, ambitious English band.

In its three years in existence, Gomez has won many major U.K. awards. On this cool and cloudy Friday evening, the quintet played inspiring and inventive music that suggested what the Beatles might have sounded like had they survived on good terms into the 1970s. This bunch was, however, almost entirely lacking in Fab Four-like charisma.

Combining songs from the band’s 1998 debut “Bring It On” (Hut/Virgin), which earned the Mercury Prize as England’s album of the year, with ones on their adventurous new collection, “Liquid Skin,” the members of Gomez seemed far more relaxed and in command of their talents than during their three previous visits to L.A.

The three upfront members (Tom Gray, Ian Ball, Ben Ottewell) all effectively sang lead vocals on various songs, and the trio traded on a succession of different guitars and other stringed instruments through the 80-minute performance. Progressive piano parts, stimulating drums (Olly Peacock) and percussion as well as a reliable and elastic bassist (Paul Blackburn) completed the picture.

“Hangover,” the exotic opening track on “Liquid Skin,” was offered early in the set and recalled the sounds of defunct L.A. band Blind Melon, while the biting “Rhythm & Blues Alibi,” a clever indictment of opportunistic musicians, benefited from the disparate vocal styles of the three singers, who each worked themselves in and out of the song.

From last year’s “Bring It On,” the bluesy, Beatles-esque stomp “Whippin’ Picadilly,” which evolved into a throbbing dance beat, closed the regular set in fine fashion, while an encore take on “78 Stone Wobble,” a strong, uplifting single from that album, segued into a happy snippet of “Not Fade Away.” “Devil Will Ride,” with its “bye-bye, baby’ refrain,” was a fitting end to the enjoyable show.

In the group’s appearances at some of the danker clubs around town, sardined fans could only stand in front of the stage and watch the cornered musicians. But the open-air vibe of the spacious, county-run Ford allowed both the band — which at times grew to include seven members — and the oft-dancing audience plenty of room to breathe.

Gomez

John Anson Ford Theater; 1,100 seats; $19.50

Production

Presented by Avalon/KCRW. Reviewed Oct. 1, 1999.

Cast

Band: Tom Gray, Ian Ball, Ben Ottewell, Paul Blackburn, Olly Peacock.
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