Gomez, Shepherds Bush Empire, London <!-- none onestar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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Tipped at the end of the Nineties as one of the British bands to watch, Gomez now find themselves struggling to remind listeners they still exist. Armed with a new record label-manager-PR, the Southport band have come out fighting, refuting a cynical media that long ago wrote them off as fusty dad-rockers. Indeed, the current album, How We Operate, finds Gomez focused on songwriting, so eschewing the musical indulgences of yore. But is anyone really interested in suburban English boys trying to reinvent their favourite American music forms? On Monday night, the Empire's audience appeared to cautiously vote "yes".

In 1998, Gomez astonished everyone by walking off with the Mercury Prize and a Mojo front cover They managed, through relentless touring, to secure an American audience.

Playing in front of a packed Empire, this still-youthful band - no member yet 30 - prove they love making music; for close to two hours they swap vocals and instruments, sharing harmonies, encouraging one another forward, good-humoured, easygoing. And when Ben Ottewell stomps around the stage like a young farmer impersonating Tom Waits you can't help but smile. Yet I saw them in 1998 at this venue and little has changed: as a band they still lack any real dynamic, more resembling teachers having a common-room jam than rockers.

Ben Ottewell shares vocals with Ian Ball and Tom Gray, all deftly playing off one another. Guitar, keyboard and melodica mesh over a tight rhythm section. New songs "Hamoa Beach" and "Notice" show newfound songcraft while "Got Myself Arrested" remains a student disco standard.

But there's little tension and songs chug along without catching fire. Their attempt at an indie pop radio anthem "Girlshapedlovedrug" is so anaemic, even the band look bored. Gomez songs lack sharp hooks or the wild, mercurial elements necessary for music to stick to the membrane. The audience, drained by the heat, shuffle along agreeably, yet by 10pm punters are already drifting off. I imagine we all want to shout: "Go crazy! Mess up! Let it loose", but that would be impolite and, in concert, Gomez perform politely.

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