Ben Kweller & Gomez at the Wiltern, Feb. 21
Ben Kweller and Gomez are on a co-headlining tour, but you wouldn't know it from their sets at the Wiltern Wednesday night. Kweller's opening, somewhat shorter set was lively, very good, and warmly received, but Gomez owned the night with their electric, enormously charismatic and entertaining 18-song set. Kweller's set felt like a very good opening act.
To some degree, there were two crowds for the show: Ben Kweller fans, and Gomez fans. Many missed part, or all, of one of the sets.
Some of the Gomez crowd missed Kweller, clad in a hat possibly borrowed from the male half of the Captain & Tenille, moving through a well-paced set that included rockers like "I Want You Back" and "The Rules", chirpier pop songs like current single "Penny On The Train Track", soft songs like "Sundress" and "Family Tree", and even a bit of country. Kweller's got range, but I could do without the twang and some of the chirps (the crowd seemed to love at least his chirpy pop songs.) I would have replaced them with "Commerce, TX" and "Wantin' Her Again" (and maybe a Radish song, or a non-country cover). Still, Kweller's set was very good, and plenty of fun.
The Wiltern stage could barely contain the stage presence of Gomez, let alone the physical presence of the band and all their instruments (they have a melodica and they know how to use it.)
The group feels no need to settle on one vocalist (they have three), let alone one style. Call them alt. rock, but send a friend the video for "girlshapedlovedrug" and he'll think they sound like Blur, in "Parklife" mode. Send "How We Operate", and you'll give the impression of an entirely different, bluesy, roots-rock, banjo-enhanced group.
Gomez played those tunes, both singles from last year's How We Operate, and many other songs, during their excellent set, apparently having a good time in the process. During the two-song encore, singer Ian Ball said although it was past the Wiltern's curfew, he was tempted to keep going to irritate their tour manager (or something along those lines.) The band was energetic throughout the night, as was the enthusiastic crowd. Gomez performs so well together, including during some long, excellent jams, that it seems effortless. I'm not suggesting that they're some sort of English alt. rock performing machine that feeds off the energy of a great crowd, but it was a pretty great crowd, so I won't rule out the possibility.
"Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone" live clip (not from the Wiltern, but possibly also with a great crowd):
Gomez - Here Comes The Breeze (on Bring It On, Gomez's first album. It was the first song they played on Wednesday.)
Ben Kweller - The Rules (on On My Way, his second studio album. This is one of the rock songs he played that I liked the best.)