I wanted to add to the excellent Glasgow review above with some thoughts.
The performance on this tour is a piece of theatre, right down to the eyeshadow. Merrie land is played in full because it cannot be separated. It is a singular piece, a statement, with acts and scenes, yes, but only making sense in order.
Albarn is playing the part of manic ringleader, screaming into the void, clasping the sides of his cranium to simultaneously contain the madness, and tear it from his mind. At times he takes off with the intention of trashing the surrounding set, only to pull himself back at the last moment. He howls into the microphone, channeling Floyd-ian cackling, laughing so he won’t cry.
To his side, Simonon stares aggressively into the eyes of the crowd as if to ask whether they are enjoying this, and if this is even the kind of thing you can enjoy. He grooves and foxtrots back and forth, his manic toothy grin on display as he machine guns the crowd with his dub lows. Tong is way more active than given credit. He colours the set, stomping pedals, standing proud, turning and, yes, smiling. His guitar bites loudly, and the tremeloes lull us along on a sea of melancholy.
I can’t see Allen from my position. He doesn’t care. When I can crane around, he is drinking whiskey and grinning broadly. His playing is simultaneously light on top and thunderous down below, and the duly-appointed percussionist next to him gives him the room to loosen up.
Albarn lurches forward, points at ghosts, pulls at the corner of his mouth, dribbles as he screams, punches the air because they sound so good and strange, an echo of all that is great and sorrowful on this stroppy little island. The prowling preacher gives way at points to the pleading balladeer, trying to woo back his lost love.
And in this play you see the actors having plain old fun. It feels like a gang that only care about the message they are sending and not about the sales they are getting. They blow kisses, bow in reverence, collapse into each other’s arms, tell in-jokes that are never really explained.
The only misstep is when Albarn apologises for the fact that many of the lyrics refer to England. Simonon tries to offer succour by saying that we all live on the same island. Albarn changes the lyrics of Truce of Twilight to “in the dance schools of Scot-land”. He even tries to fit in “Scot-er-land” instead of “En-gur-land.” As he does so he looks at me and we both giggle at the silliness of it. Perhaps he realises that he’s missed the point. The Scots and the Northeners both know who has led us here, and we’d rather you stick with the original target of the lyrics rather than pull us into it. The song loses some of its bite but not all, because it remains a beast.
Last Man to Leave is great on the record. Live, as part of this play, it’s a revelation. Albarn gets to act the part and he wrings it dry. Thank you.
The older stuff is still great, and still hits. It’s a little more Gregorian and apocalyptic as opposed to the seaside suicide of the newer songs. It ends with a groovy tornado, the band speeding up mercilessly, Albarn wide-eyed, fingers cramping, begging them to stop. They don’t, and force him back to the piano. It’s a perfect metaphor to the siuation we find ourselves in as a country, the message carrying right on through to the glorious end.
Last edited by kdiglas78
on 05 Dec 2018, 12:33, edited 6 times in total.