Review | Ben Ottewell at Staggeringly Good Brewery, Milton: 'Oh, that voice!'

About two-thirds of the way through his set Ben Ottewell announces: ‘Here’s another new Gomez track for you…’

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 3:56 pm
Ben Ottewell at Staggeringly Good Brewery on November 19, 2021. Picture by Chris Broom
Ben Ottewell at Staggeringly Good Brewery on November 19, 2021. Picture by Chris Broom

And you can see audience members looking at each other as if to say: ‘Did I hear that right?’

Ottewell had earlier mentioned that he’d recently done some recording out in LA when introducing another new, country-tinged, number – without explicitly saying it was for Gomez.

Given that it’s been a decade since the Mercury Prize-winning indie band’s last album, this is welcome news indeed.

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But this is a solo show for the singer-writer – it’s just Ben, his guitar, and his voice. Oh, that voice!

When Gomez first emerged in the late 1990s there was something rather incongruous about this deep, rich-yet-gravelly voice more suited to a grizzled bluesman coming out of an English guy in his early 20s.

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Over time he has definitely learnt how to deploy it to incredible effect - knowing when to rein it in, and when to let it fly.

Kicking things off with Shapes and Shadows, the title track of his 2011 solo debut, the setlist cherry-picks from Ben’s three solo albums as well as Gomez’s back catalogue.

The solo material tends to be folkier and more reflective than the up-beat band songs, but it flows well over the course of an hour-and-a-quarter.

And it’s not just the obvious Gomez tracks that get an outing – Love is Better Than A Warm Trombone is a high point (including his ‘cack-handed’ attempt at the bluesy guitar intro), and we also get his own favourite Gomez track, Hamoa Beach from 2006’s How We Operate.

There’s little chance of Ottewell being let off without an encore – and when he returns, his reading of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine is sublime.

This is followed by Gomez’s Tijuana Lady, but the crowd isn’t done with him yet, and he returns once more for a good-time romp through Whippin’ Piccadilly, one of the songs that first put his band on the map.

Opening act, Fugitive Orchestra is a last minute replacement after Tom Bryan is felled by Covid, but this one-man band’s loop-driven mutant funk-pop is always a treat.

The only flaw in the evening is the incessant chatter from some quarters.

When the performer is clearly distracted during a softer number, and is moved a couple of songs later to not-so-politely tell them to shut up, it’s a big hint to, you know, stop talking.

That aside it’s also good to see Staggeringly Good starting to find its feet as a venue – anywhere new for live music has to be a bonus for the city.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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