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The Good, The Bad & The Queen live at the BBC Electric Proms
26 October 2006
Reviewed by The Independent

Albarn's latest musical cocktail packs a punch

The Good, The Bad & The QueenDamon 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 Steve White.

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.

Damon AlbarnOn 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.

Gavin Martin
Photos by BBC

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