Gaz Coombes live review at Sheffield’s Leadmill by Rob Johnson

It’s rare for an artist currently sitting comfortably in their fourth decade of making music to still be going strong, it’s unheard of for said artist to have just released what is arguably their strongest record. But that’s where we are with Gaz Coombes and his recently released fourth solo LP ‘Turn the Car Around’. It’s also impressive and commendable to see how much Coombes has invested into his latest tour, even for a relatively intimate venue like the Sheffield Leadmill. Backed by two guitarists, a bass player, vocal trio The Roxys, a drummer and a keyboard player who also doubles up on saxophone, this is a world away from Ian Brown singing bad karaoke versions of his own songs…

The lilting piano of ‘Overnight Trains’ kicks things off and this slow build provides the first glimpse into Coombes’ secret weapon – his forceful and piercing voice. The Leadmill has always been a great venue for sound quality, so it proves here. Despite the sheer number of people on stage, the sound is pristine throughout – a testament to both the performer and the venue. New album highlight ‘Don’t Say It’s Over’ follows, emphasising that Coombes is one of his generation’s best songwriters. The Arctic Monkeys wish they could still write this kind of song – all tumbling melodies and haunting vocals. 

The title track to the new LP follows, and the crowd goes wild, an indication of how successful and acclaimed this new record has become, despite only being out in the world for a few months. Coombes and his incendiary backing band amp things up for rocker ‘Deep Pockets’ and ‘Long Live the Strange’ – the latter slogan adorned on the t-shirts of the backing singers and in the hearts of everyone in attendance. 

Coombes is a consummate professional and boasts a natural stage presence and this is demonstrated through his meandering intro to ‘The Girl Who Fell to Earth’ which he credits to his autistic daughter and their relationship. He performs the song alone with only his acoustic guitar for accompaniment and it is a truly beautiful moment. ‘Sonny the Strong’ is next up and the chorus to that song reverberates around the hallowed Leadmill walls like a mighty hymn echoing throughout an old cathedral. The crowd is in thrall. The singer looks happy. All is well. 

Coombes’ second album ‘Matador’ is well-represented all night and a glorious version of ‘20/20’ continues that theme followed by an extended rendition of ‘World’s Strongest Man’ favourite ‘Walk the Walk’ which closes out the first part of the set. 

The Oxford singer returns to the stage to rapturous applause and delivers a stunning solo version of ‘Matador’, bathed in white lights and sporting a dishevelled suit like a more polite Tom Waits. Fan favourite ‘The English Ruse’ marks the end of the show and judging by the smiles plastered on everyone faces within the venue, Coombes is happy, the band are happy and the crowd are beside themselves. What a night. 

You can find further tickets and dates here.

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