Posted by John Hepworth.
Reviewed on 13th November 2004.
Live at Grove Inn on Thursday, 11th November 2004
At the thought of Jon Gomm, and the prospect of attempting to express the inexpressible, the pen trembles. Obviously a job for the word processor then, but first a couple of things the pencil jotted down, overheard in the bar corridor of the Grove as chick-funk support duo Gallo played the first section of the show. One remark was an incredulous "Have they got a baby singing in there?" and the other, an intrigued "What's she got in that glass - hydrogen?" Neither of these were negative reactions to Natasha Koczy's blossomdeariesque presentation: hers is a sound that can't pass without comment. A possible one is that we had glimpses of other, solider voices from her as well, which might deserve more than momentary exposure. They may be related to the strength and control of her saxophone work towards the end of the set. It must at least have been more relaxing for her with that instrument, than for guitar accompanist Bonnie Curtis knowing she was in front of an audience that had assembled for a Gomming.
There was a buzz of excited tension zipping around the crowded music room as he tuned up the one acoustic guitar (Wilma) he used through both his sets, with its two pickups and bunch of effect pedals. Jon told us the pre-break repertoire was a bit dark - an angst-touched remnant of having played in Wigan the night before, and of the universal presence of pies in that locality. Even in a sandwich, it was revealed, you might find a pie.
Jon Gomm's music should be seen in performance to be appreciated, (hey-ho, sorry everybody but it does have to be said). One could even worry for the sale of his CDs. The DVD must be the appropriate medium, because quite apart from the rhythms being visual as well as aural, the listener laps up such astounding evidence that the sound is the unaccompanied work of a single performer. OK the tech stuff isn't by his feet for nothing, but with layering, delay, reverb and various distortions, you are witnessing something that a generation ago John Martin used a whole studio for, and had to go to Jamaica to find it.
That's only part of what you see : the simultaneous strumming and picking move faster than the eye can follow; the style moves in and out of flamenco, rock, blues, jazz and tender melody. All sorts of bewildered and delighted comments are heard about J Gomm's unconventional handling of the guitar - the word percussive comes up a lot, and less frequently the perfectly valid observation about him playing the fingerboard as if playing piano.
Can there be anyone who is less intimidated by the instrument, while at the same time filling his music with a driven belief that a guitar is full of mysterious potential he has yet to come to terms with? This respect for what he's involved in shows in his modesty about his results, as he waves away applause for part of a trilogy 'on waking up'. The performance didn't turn out as intended, worse than last time he says, which was when it had first gone before an audience. As though in urgent dialogue with a ventriloquist's doll, he's telling Wilma as he nods in the direction of the audience, 'They've payed you know. They've payed!'
Modesty, warmth and good humour fill the spaces between the songs and tunes; and concluding the evening he insists his guest at the first of his new a series of monthly concerts at The Mixing Tin, Angelo Paladino, is a real guitarist and will kick the Gomm ass. But then JG is known for his appreciation of fellow artists and helpfulness towards them, and just in case his well-satisfied Grove audience didn't feel sufficiently appreciated he took photos from the stage, after getting us to smile the word 'Wigan.'