30th May, 2004

Golden Graham? It’s all a Blur

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…

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