It’s a bitter, late January wind that blows down Brick Lane but the window panes fronting Rough Trade, a record shop that nestles in the abdomen of the old Truman Brewery, reveal a big city enthusiasm that cannot be thwarted by mere weather alone. They’re misted with the hot breath of punters fresh in from the cold.
Between the record shelves and CD stacks snakes a healthy cross-section of the music-buying public. There’s a mohawk to the left, a pepper-and-salt mutton-chopped geezer to the right, a modernist in the middle of the crowd and scores of couples and stray men and women who sway in time to the man’s music, the man being Gaz Coombes, replete in navy pork pie hat and blue blazer. He’s aged, matured, but you can only tell by the music, most of the songs played live here out east coming from his new album Matador, the one spare tyre, if you like, being ‘Hot Fruit’, a song from his previous solo long player which possesses the rock and drive of a Ray Davies record circa 1969.
It’s a melding of musical flavours played by a no-nonsense five-piece, the lugubrious moustachioed bassist looming behind the lead man like a character out of Dickens as Coombes without fuss launches, with ‘Buffalo’, into a concise 8-song showcase of precisely what he’s up to these days.
He’s seated front of stage at a keyboard without need to throw shapes. It’s a sign of how comfortable he is, his knees under the desk, the audience appreciative of the new Coombes, of what has become of him since those heady Supergrass days of UK plc and Blairite swagger.
Then he’s up, acoustic steel-string slung over his shoulder, as he races through ‘Seven Walls’, ‘Detroit’, ‘The Girl Who Fell To Earth’ (he’s obviously a fan of Walter Tevis), ‘To The Wire’, ’20-20′, ‘Hot Fruit’ and ‘Matador’, and the people sway, made loose by hot grog and tight, melodic pop, under which runs the prog-rockish John “Rabbit” Bundrick type sound of a nimble synth which underscores each track and provides the aural arras upon which Coombes can hang his new ideas.
He’s having fun with the newfound freedom afforded by age and he’s caught by the buzz of it. And it works. It’s worth checking out the man’s new incarnation on 6 February on London’s South Bank because, if he’s willing to experiment further, his is a career that has legs.