THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE QUEEN – LONDON PALLADIUM 19.04.19
To say that Damon Albarn is prolific and that his output is diverse is something of an understatement. Achieving fame with Blur, while that band was still operational he started his side-project Gorillaz, which came to at least equal Blur in terms of album and ticket sales. With Blur on hiatus he formed The Good, The Bad and The Queen who have operated in parallel with Gorillaz, alongside other projects, not least Albarn’s solo career.
The Good, The Bad and The Queen are what in the olden days was called a supergroup. Apart from Albarn the band comprises Paul Simonon from The Clash on bass, Simon Tong ex of The Verve on guitar, and legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen. Tonight on stage they are joined by a keyboard player, a percussionist and a string quartet (Red Hot Strings); the string players and the percussionist all wearing flat caps, as does Simonon.
Tonight’s show is part of a tour that commenced last autumn to promote the band’s latest album ‘Merrie Land’, which is only their second album released after a gap of eleven years from their debut. Indeed, when this tour started they hadn’t played live since 2011. Not that you’d notice. The band perform like a well-oiled machine, the sound being noticeably fuller than on the records, not least due to the presence of Red Hot Strings.
Albarn’s stage persona is markedly different from when he fronts Blur. Rather than charging around frenetically, he lopes and strolls around the stage. Paul Simonon is still one of the more mobile bass players, although he does pause occasionally to machine-gun the crowd with his bass. For four songs the band are joined by the Penrhyn Bethesda Male Voice Choir, who bring a certain stateliness to proceedings. However, that said, the rich full sound isn’t applied to every song. ‘Kingdom of Doom’ for example is far more jagged and rocky than on the album.
The set is split into two halves: the first consisting of ‘Merrie Land’ in its entirety, whilst the second half comprises material from the first album, with only ‘Northern Whale’, ‘Behind The Sun’ and ‘The Bunting Song’ excluded. The Good, The Bad and The Queen give a masterclass in how to present music that broadly defies genre. We can recognise Albarn’s lyrical quirkiness, Simonon’s reggae-leaning basslines, Simon Tong’s rockisms and Tony Allen’s Afrobeat leanings. Ultimately though, the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.
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