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Golden Graham? It’s all a Blur

30th May 2004

I’ve just been to see former Blur guitar-botherer Graham Coxon playing live at a packed Rescue Rooms in Nottingham. The quiet one was actually pretty loud, and had the demeanour of a man unshackled. The gig was by no means perfect, but old Coxon certainly let it rip.

Julian Opie's portrait of Coxon

It’s 3am so I’m not ready to furnish you with an in-depth review, but still I’ve managed to elaborate a little.

I first saw Blur play in Nottingham way back in 1991. They’d been flown in from Moscow to perform in a big tent, which seemed quite exciting at the time. I was never a big fan, but always bought their records because there would always be a few classics mixed in with the mockney-cockney knees-up-Mother-Brown-ness. In 1998 I briefly met the whole band on one of my many trips to Iceland, in Reykjavik’s long since gone Cafe Frank, and I remember Graham being like a small lost boy, seemingly intimidated by everything around him.

Fast-forward to 2004. Blur sacked Graham and made one of their best albums to date (Think Tank). Damon Albarn’s off-shoot Gorillaz have sold more albums than Blur did in their whole career. Graham Coxon is on his third or fourth solo album.

Tonight in Nottingham we saw a slightly tired looking chap in a Captain Pugwash outfit blast his way through plenty of self-penned tunes that were certainly hit and miss, but very often brash enough to keep everyone happy. Tracks like Freakin’ Out and People of the Earth were top-notch screetchy wails that cut through any apathy with a warm knife, and Coxon certainly managed to give every song everything he had. Often the set went a bit awry, with middling tunes that sounded a bit too Blur-ry, but when he kicked the guitars up - and that was always the Coxon way - the whole crowd seemed to raise the excitement and fall in with the mood.

There was an obvious, tangible sense of American influences on show - a combo of Weezer, Pavement and maybe the Pixies about the performance, but it’s easy to forgive little old Graham. Too many times I’ve seen photos of him lying pissed in some Soho gutter, or cowering like a petrified rabbit in an interview, that tonight I was just happy to see him set free. The man knows his way around a guitar - that’s for sure - I just wish he’d tap into the old Blur melody-machine. Often, the tunes were a tad too introspective to engage the crowd. The gig was great, and Coxon is a bit of a legend, but without the wall of feedback and chaotic thrashing, his integrity seemed a little exposed. Damn fine for a freebie though…

Thanks to Nick at Speakers for the tickets. You did well…

Responses

# Steve Keyworth responded on 31st May 2004 with...

A review written coherently at three in the morning after a ‘boozy do’?
“Dedication”, as Roy used to say, “is what you need”.

I heard ‘Young Graham’ sounds a bit like a pissed down version of ‘Old Albarn’, question is, does he whistle his ‘esses’?

# Simon Collison responded on 31st May 2004 with...

Yes, amazing bit of post-boozing word management I think.

As for Graham being a bit tame, I’d say Coxon’s pippin’ (geddit?!) All-Bran and the others in the zesty energy stakes, but not so in the tunes. Still, good gig. The kids were getting down…

# Simon Snorkeller responded on 31st May 2004 with...

The power of blog gig reviews, eh? You’ll be moblogging direct from the aftershow next…

...and I quite enjoyed Golden Graham myself, though he did seem to go on a bit, and the only people who really wanted an encore were running the merch stand.

He’s great when he does his own thing, powering along like a more metal version of Pavement, not so good on the ballads where it’s like Blur b-sides with Damon wearing over-tight trousers. A couple of memorable tracks from the latest record too, but just all a bit, a bit, a bit… controlled…?

I think that’s my thing. He’s a unique and inventive guitarist and the band where tight as a gnat’s but it’s the kind of garage band that has a three-car garage with a plush 4x4 in it.

And he does look like the chap in the attic in Shallow Grave, you don’t know if he’s going to burst into tears or go mad with an axe.

# Spike responded on 31st May 2004 with...

I’ve heard the new album - and as a big Blur fan I have to say I think its poor. Graham would’ve been better forming a new band with a new singer, or just spending the rest of his life getting cained. The ballads are crap. Just my two cents…

# Lapin responded on 1st June 2004 with...

I wasn’t impressed. No tunes, shortcomings papered over by walls of sound, and zero stage presence. You’ll be seeing a review on Speakers, but that’s the long and short of it.

# Lapin responded on 10th June 2004 with...

It’s here. My review, that is…

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