Samuel Flynn Scott is one man and his guitar. He looks and strums like he just got out of bed, and the ebb and flow of punters arriving for the main act is mostly ambivalent. Tis a shame, actually, because his sublime falsetto defines him as something more. It is a reminder of why his contribution to The Phoenix Foundation is so rewarding and memorable.
Gaz Coombes has filled the room. And here he is. No, it’s not a roadie, last minute twiddling with knobs, but Coombes himself. It’s there in the sparkly eyes. Punters double-take, as they were expecting a drum kit and ‘full-band’ paraphernalia to be lugged on before the headline act began. But it’s only him solo, and from the get-go he is spellbinding.
a sophisticated tunesmith and eloquent emotional analyser, with a diamond glint in his eye...
Starting with Oscillate, from his second solo LP Matador, Coombes is as comfortable on the piano as he is with a guitar around his neck. And the lushness of his vocal serenades the punters but sometimes hides the detail of his lyrics, which are often incredibly personal and hard-hitting - “I never once thought about ever fearing the silence”.
Despite rowdy heckles to “play Mansize Rooster”, this is not a trip down britpop-memory lane. Coombes is no indie has-been, trying to cash in on former glories but really learning how to drown. It was always a rash and foolish tabloid hack who dismissed Supergrass as cheeky 90s rascals with bark but not bite.
No, what’s on display tonight has always been there - a sophisticated tunesmith and eloquent emotional analyser, with a diamond glint in his eye and tongue that can be easily removed and / or inserted into his cheek. Back at the piano, Shit, I’ve Done it Again - from this year’s World’s Strongest Man, brings smiles to the crowd as Coombes vocalises the everyday thoughts that all of us have. “I’ve got so far / then fucked it up”.
There are occasional forays into drums loops, like on Hot Fruit from his first album, Here come the Bombs, but Gaz plays most of the set on a beaten-up, matt-white acoustic. The down-to-earth-ness is glorious. During his banter with the crowd he is positively nonchalant, challenging someone who angrily claims it’s 20 years, not 5 since he last sung on these shores.
And that crowd is far from ‘alright’. They stand like stubborn tree trunks, perhaps cross it’s not still 1995.
The Girl Who Fell to Earth is about his daughter, which could be schmaltzy in less self-deprecating hands, but his lyrical kookiness sets it on higher ground. “You wear your elastic heart on your chewed up sleeve” he sings. The crispy lushness of the sound spreads out across the static crowd.
And that crowd is far from ‘alright’. They stand like stubborn tree trunks, perhaps cross it’s not still 1995. Not even an inspired Detroit can rouse them into a sway, a knee-bend or a hip shimmy. This is another stand out track from The World’s Strongest Man. Stripped of its bluesy horn gospel rock outro, Coombes soaring vocals set it apart, and show just what a presence he is.
He needn’t have played any Supergrass, but he did in his second encore. No way were the tree trunks getting any pumping on their stereos, mind. Instead, Coombes bowed out with tracks that bookended his former band’s career; the majestic stop/start of Moving and a kooky, buzzy Caught by the Fuzz.
A song which encapsulates the frustration, panic and anger of adolescence, to end a blinder that encapsulated the frustration, panic, anger and thankfully, wonder, of being.