Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Graham Coxon Power Acoustic Ensemble @ The Town Hall, Saturday 15th May 2010

Old Albarn may be the most famous Blur-ite but GC’s been putting out all kinds of good shit over the last decade or so, culminating in 2009’s The Spinning Top – an ambitious concept album that tells one man’s story from birth to death (actually, as Graham pointed out tonight it doesn’t...not really...he just said that in an interview and now it’s all people talk about...and I’ve just gone and compounded this misconception...balls). Tonight he bought the whole thing to life – literally as he played every track from the album – with a little help from his friends...including the very lovely Mr Robyn Hitchcock and the equally delightful Mr Living Legend of Folk himself, Martin Carthy. Each track had an accompanying film too, projected onto a screen at the back of the stage (you can see the frankly gruesome ‘Dead Bees’ vid above this review). I’d not actually listened to the album much before tonight’s gig, but the material’s a lot richer sounding than anything I’ve heard (solo) Graham do before. Veering from the Nick Drake-ish ‘Look Into The Light’ to, appropriately enough, the Robyn Hitchcock-esque glam stomp of ‘Dead Bees’ it’s a hugely impressive body of work by anyone’s standards. Overcoming what seemed like blind terror at the beginning of the gig “I’m a bit stressed” Graham muttered, hunched over his microphone (“You’re amongst friends” shouted someone encouragingly) he, and the other 10 musicians settled down to play one of the most intriguing sets I’ve seen in ages. I’ve mentioned Nick Drake already and the gentleness of Graham’s voice couldn’t help but remind you of one of folk’s lost legends. At other times there were shades of Syd Barrett’s slightly (oh alright then...massively) tripped out delivery too. Barrett + Drake = uber cool.

Despite the size of the venue it all felt really intimate and the acoustics managed to cope well with Graham’s occasionally hushed vocals. Sitting there you actually felt like you were witnessing the birth of someone who’s doing his best work right now...which ain’t bad for a 40 year old bloke (there’s hope for me after all...maybe I should get stuck into writing that 1500 page novel about the human condition...then again I’d miss the EastEnders omnibus and that says far more about the human condition than I ever could). On top of the aforementioned ‘Look Into The Light’ and ‘Dead Bees’, ‘Perfect Love’ (a jaunty little number stuffed..ahem..with euphemisms “out of the tree and into the sea swam my perfect love for thee” indeed) and the lullaby-tastic ‘Caspian Sea’ (which suddenly exploded into a furious psych Floyd meltdown) impressed me no end. Although he relaxed a little as the evening wore on our Graham’s clearly a nervous soul, revealing that he writes songs because otherwise he’d just “be talking to myself”. Glancing at both Martin and Robyn (whose reverence of the Coxmeister almost seemed like they were passing on their collective musical crowns to him) he asked them pointedly “Isn’t that why we all do it?”, they both looked at their shoes a little uncomfortably and then kinda nodded. In a world where most major artists keep their true self well under wraps Coxon’s out there as naked and vulnerable as the day he was born. And that takes balls my friends. A peerless performance from one of our new national musical treasures.

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