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Graham Coxon - Barbican, London, 28/11/2009

  by Anthony Middleton

published: 1 / 12 / 2009

Graham Coxon - Barbican, London, 28/11/2009


After Blur's reunion shows of this summer, Anthony Middleton watches guitarist Graham Coxon at the Barbican in London play an excellent solo set with a backing band that inlcudes in its line-up folk elder statesman Martin Carty and also Robyn Hitchcock

After the euphoria of this summer’s Blur reunion, you sense the two main creative forces behind that band are now keen to reassert themselves back into their previous worlds of artistic independence. Damon Albarn has said that his former band is far from his thoughts and he is focused on the next Gorillaz album, perhaps even a return of The Good, the Bad and the Queen. Blur’s more vulnerable source of inspiration, Graham Coxon, also has his own long-standing project and at the Barbican it was as if he was drawing a line under the summer’s diversions. His latest album, 'Spinning Top', was played in full here and, good though it is, it took on a whole new life in concert, if for no other reason that we were able to see just what a lot of effort has to go into making up an apparently simple album. At the centre of the evening was a trio of guitarists of super group stature; Coxon himself, folk elder statesman Martin Carty (Last seen by me at the Blackheath Folk Club, I mention this to prove you don’t have to traipse off to an arena to see a legend) and Robyn Hitchcock. Also there was an Indian dilruba player, percussionists, keyboardist, drummer, three backing singers, bassist and someone playing something that I have never seen before and couldn’t hear. Coxon’s voice is an acquired taste; at first it can feel reedy and weak, struggling outside a narrow comfort zone. But in the context of his own music it works wonderfully, the slight lack of control seems to be a symbol for his struggles, whether the well documented one with alcohol or the need to shake off the chains of his old band and fame. One of the highlights comes early with the eight minute long 'In the Morning'; the multifaceted band take off with Coxon’s newly acquired folk guitar skills to the fore and the soaring backing singers, who you can overlook on record, deliver outstanding performances. The whole show is accompanied by videos associated with the songs, the best one being an elaborated sandcastle being gradually destroyed by the incoming tide. At times Coxon is charmingly self effacing and nervous when he talks to the audience, before mumbling something to the effect that he wouldn’t do much more banter as it was pointless pretending it was a conversation and we all just wanted to hear music. All these inhibitions are easily lost when he is playing the music, never more so than when he takes hold of his electric guitar and effects pedals on more indie rock numbers such as the very Blur-like 'Humble Man'. The evening finished off with a solo acoustic series of songs including 'Baby, You’re out of My Mind' an earlier folk inspired song from 2002 album, 'The Kiss of Morning'. Much as I loved the band, the simplicity of these few songs were the best part of the night, recalling the likes of Nick Drake, who is obviously an inspiration to Coxon and one to whom he is worthy of being compared.

Picture Gallery:-
Graham Coxon - Barbican, London, 28/11/2009

Graham Coxon - Barbican, London, 28/11/2009

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