TVD Live: Gaz Coombes, Caleb Elliott, Kiki Wilder at City Winery, 10/4

When Supergrass called it quits in 2010, frontman Gaz Coombes kept going with a series of solo albums that showed how strong he was at songcraft and increasingly, how talented he is at producing it.

In his solo show at City Winery in Washington, DC on Thursday, he showed how he can do many things well at once, infusing his songs not just with guitar, but with effects laden loops, tapes, backing tracks, and percussion.

It added a depth (if a bit of robotic certainty) to his solid Britpop songs, which might have come across just fine with only his guitars and distinctive vocals, a yowl that sometimes brings to mind Thom Yorke of Radiohead depending on the song. That happened when he stuck to acoustic guitar to sing his salute to his autistic daughter, now 15, in “The Girl Who Fell from Earth.”

With a sprinkling from his three solo albums, the 42-year-old Coombes, still rocking the fuzzy sideburns, didn’t bother to dip into the Supergrass song pool until the last song in the encore, a version of “Moving” that had fans standing and singing along.

Truth to tell, Coombes had asked the crowd to stand for the stirring final song in his set, “Detroit”—it’s weird for a rock ’n’ roller to be playing essentially a seated supper club. But they were glad to do it.

A grand piano added to the variety, though his work on “Shit (I’ve Done It Again)” (not a Britney Spears variant) and “Seven Walls” were aided by pedals firing up echoed vocals or extra percussion. Perhaps owing to the genteel surroundings, he didn’t put on an electric guitar until eight songs into the set with “Deep Pockets,” the first single from his latest album, released in May, World’s Strongest Man.

If he was dismayed by the modest sized crowd, he didn’t show it. On the contrary, the show business pro thanked fans for showing up and made them feel comfortable in the intimate setting.

Coombes chose well when picking his opening acts for his tour, with Caleb Elliott, a deep voiced folk man from Louisiana. Elliott was hard pressed to come up with upbeat, optimistic material, but he was backed by fiddler Kimi Samson and the two of them are in-demand session players (on cello and violin) in the famous studios of Muscle Shoals, AL.

So the two person string section also backed Coombes on the first two songs of his encore, “Slow Motion Life” and “Walk the Walk,” though he showed that human accompaniment wasn’t quite enough for him—he turned on the loops and drum machines as well.

No where in sight, should he want her help in the encore, was the first act on the triple bill, Kiki Wilder, a singer songwriter and big time Gaz fan who was flustered from the start when an effects pedal didn’t work on her acoustic guitar.

She said it was her first time playing before more than five people, so, wracked with nerves, she froze in her opening song, abandoned it, then froze in her second song and abandoned that as well. Only when she moved to the piano with a couple of nice tunes, did she manage to get through a couple of songs all of the way through. Then she got the heck out of there.

Hot Fruit
White Noise
Shit (I’ve Done It Again)
Wounded Egos
Seven Walls
Deep Pockets
Oxygen Mask
The Girl Who Fell to Earth

Slow Motion Life
Walk the Walk

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