Damon Albarn, being something of a native as he hails from nearby Colchester, closes tonight’s set by The Good, The Bad & The Queen by displaying his intimate knowledge of the A12. It’s perhaps not the most rock ‘n’ roll way to end a festival, but then The Good, The Bad & The Queen aren’t necessarily going to play by the rules.
The more I hear GBQ, the more I like them. My favourite Blur songs have always been the more melancholic, downtempo ones — “Oily Water”, “Miss America”, “Tender”, Damon’s slightly cracked, woozy voice working at its best here.
So, the GBQ project suits him perfectly — casting that delivery against scuzzy, 3am dub soundcapes, shaped by Paul Simonon‘s meaty bass lines.
I’m not sure, though, quite whether they’re the band to bring to a rousing close the second night of a festival.
There’s something incredibly polite about the whole set. Sure, Simonon is the coolest man in rock — I can happily watch him stalk a stage, fag hanging nonchalantly from his lips all day. And Tony Allen’s Afrobeat rhythms add a tricksy element to the percussion.
But you want songs you can all sing along to — that great communal moment when strangers turn to one another and sing at the top of their voices, a shared moment of union. And, as enticing a prospect as GBQ are, they don’t really quite deliver that.
Still, they play the album all the way through, and it sounds good — a real connection between Albarn, Simonon, Allen and guitarist Simon Tong. The string quartet adds an extra dimension, fleshing out the sparseness of the music.
And Damon, bless, with his top hat, looking like a benign Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist.
GBQ are a great escape, a good adventure for the man following the success of Gorillaz. But I can’t wait until he, Graham, Alex and Dave get back into that studio in October…
Anyway, off to dance to Rob Da Bank in the Sunrise Arena. Back tomorrow, where we’ll be bringing you everything you need to know about The National, Jarvis Cocker and Arcade Fire.