The Good, The Bad & The Queen live at the BBC
Reviewed by The
Albarn's latest musical cocktail
packs a punch
Albarn's prolific ability to create a stir continues. Since he unravelled
Blur, Damon has been party to a series of departures with movie
soundtracks, Malian musicians and the multi-million selling Gorillaz.
Still holding off from the
(inevitable?) solo career tonight he gave the capital's first hearing of
an all-new project, The Good The Bad and The Queen. Real people: rather
than animated ones.
And what more poetic a setting than the
Roundhouse for a band that combines afro-pop royalty in drummer Tony
Allen with punk rock royalty in former Clash bassist Paul Simonon.
Simonon was of course the symbolic part
of The Clash, the stylistic totem on the London Calling cover. Damon's
art school leanings must have relished the chance to work with him.
Since The Clash Simonon has played rockabilly in Havana 3AM and has
developed a career as an artist with a fair hand in striking landscapes.
And that is pretty much where The Good
The Bad and The Queen take off.
Tony Allen was the second great drummer
to take the Roundhouse stage in the Electric Proms series. But the
flowing groove extrapolated on the opening History Song was hailed from
a different country to the redoubtable wallop of Paul Weller's drummer
The band has visual style, taking
centre stage for the second song. Albarn's two-tone era suit was mirrored
by Simonon, who had swapped his semi top for a pork pie hat.
Eclecticism married to
instantly-memorable melody is the key to the self-titled album, which
they play in sequence.
On 80s Life the rich raindrop doo-wop
harmonies ease into a reggae rhythm. On Northern Whale Simonon's bass
buzz was rimmed with the suggestion of a Northern brass band with an
echo of the Stones' 60s idyll title As Tears Go By. But then at the
close it burst into something so audibly spacey, dynamic and new that
you feel Albarn has moved into something that is realer and leaner than
even the admittedly excellent Gorillaz.
The Clash were a constant presence,
indeed as Simonon and the band had hot-housed that group's original
plans only yards from the venue it was only right they should. But this
was only the fourth time the band had played live and Albarn was unhappy
andastonishingly admonished the band. "We're playing like shit, we can
play a lot better. When you've only played four gigs you sometimes need
to refocus, we need to refocus.''
They played the song again: a pumped up
toy town fairground groove with added sub-dimension from Simonon and
Tony Allen's finest percussive chatter. Then the guest vocalist arrived,
Eslaam Jawaad, a Syrian/Lebanese singer. The song they played was only a
B side but like everything else they played it showed that, at the very
least, this band has extraordinary potential.
Photos by BBC