Damon Albarn brings his troupe to Liverpool for the second time in a matter of weeks. Getintothis’ Steven Doherty is there to start the Easter holiday weekend.
The second The Good, The Bad & The Queen album Merrie Land, a heartfelt, parochial love-letter to a land that is slowly sinking into the sea, is a pretty tough listen at times.
Albarn has no hope or joy in his vocal, just despair at what we’ve let ourselves become. This will be an interesting watch live, just to see how this hopelessness manifests itself.
First though, in the perfect encapsulation of the faded glamour that the record celebrates, is Trevor Raven, the Wurlitzer organ operator from Blackpool Tower for over 40 years (yes, really).
He delivers a crowd-pleasing set, playing with all the showbizzy crowd banter he would have displayed in the tower itself, even though the crowd themselves seem quite baffled as to what they are witnessing, culminating in some guilty shuffling along to the theme from Ghostbusters followed by Abba’s Dancing Queen.
He ends with Bohemian Rhapsody and I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside, a sentence we fear we shall never be able to write again.
It’s 21.00 when the assorted members of The Good, The Bad & The Queen shuffle onstage.
“Go’ed Damo lad” screams a lone, loud voice, speaking for the masses.
He’s the name above the door, the reason they’re playing such a venue.
Proving that Britpop will be the death of the people involved, as suave, young and handsome as Albarn looked playing the 6 Music Festival at the Olympia a matter of weeks ago, both him and ex-Verve guitarist Simon Tong look every one of their fifty-odd years whereas ex-Clash bassist Paul Simonon looks like he’s giving them a 20 year start (even though he’s now 63).
They kick straight into this sophomore effort’s title track and a pattern soon emerges of musicians, however talented, not wanting to trample on the singer’s vision.
Which then leads to us thinking that he could have got anyone in to make the records, he could have told the session musicians which notes he wanted, such is his control of his band.
Early highlight is the catchy Gun To The Head, one of the few songs that the crowd feel they can singalong to.
What follows is the Merrie Land album in full, which for a strangely large amount of the crowd is seemingly not what they’ve signed up for.
With no big hit ‘single’ to hang their hat on, the crowd starts to thin out towards the back as each song goes on, the swirly, haunted fairground music not keeping them hooked.
Albarn tries some very strange ventriloquist dummy action before kicking into the albums highlight, The Truce Of Twilight, which sounds like a lost 80’s 2-Tone single.
After the album’s conclusion, there follows an interlude from the mini-orchestra string section, before the band come back on and perform, what feels like a huge encore, tracks from their self-titled debut.
The crowd response is somehow different. Now it feels like a proper gig, as they have had over a decade to absorb these songs.
The almost 60’s soul twist of 80’s Life and the nod to Simonon‘s past in the London Calling-esque Kingdom Of Doom bring the gig to life, better late than never.
Green Fields leads to one of the few genuine moments of crowd interaction, and soon they are gone, to polite applause rather than rapture.
There are reasons why they have only released two albums in such a long space of time, and the harsh truth is that they are nowhere near as universally adored as Gorillaz or that other band he’s got.
During the course of the night, Getintothis tries to gauge what the crowd are thinking, and overhears at least five conversations about how Merrie Land could (and should) have been a Blur album and how he should (and could) just reform them.
Your move, Damo lad.
Images by Getinothis’ Lucy McLachlan