Damon Albarn played a career-spanning 90-minute set at London’s Rivoli Ballroom last night (April 30), bringing out tracks from his Blur, Gorillaz, The Good, The Bad and The Queen and Rocket Juice & the Moon catalogues, alongside a host of material from current solo album ‘Everyday Robots’.
Wearing a black and white suit and backed by a four-piece band dubbed The Heavy Seas, Albarn took to the ornate stage of the Brockley venue at 8.45pm, declaring that it had taken him a long time to get there because of the tube strike, but that it was “nice to be in London”.
Kicking off with new album track ‘Lonely, Press Play’, Albarn moved to a piano to play the the title track of his debut solo album ‘Everyday Robots’. Gorillaz song ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’ – taken from the band’s 2001 self-titled debut – followed, before crowd members jokingly started calling out things to the stage.
“Has the condition come to the point where you can’t listen to an hour and a half of music without having a say?” replied Albarn. “We’re attempting to bring in songs from a lot of different places tonight. We’re covering a lot of ground. We’re playing a lot of music we’ve never played tonight. I hope you like it and I hope the people in the audience who made this music like it as well.”
The band then launched into The Good, The Bad and The Queen track ‘History Song’ taken from their 2007 LP, with Albarn leading the crowd to join in the “la la la la la” refrain, before returning to the piano to play new solo track ‘Hollow Ponds’.
Addressing the audience, he then declared that he “hasn’t played this song for over a decade”, doused the front row with a bottle of water, and kicked into early Gorillaz track ‘Slow Country’, after which he threw another bottle of water into the crowd.
‘Kids With Guns’, also taken from Gorillaz’s repertoire, followed with the stage bathed in red lights, climaxing with Damon throwing yet another bottle of water over the crowd, while ‘3 Changes’ saw Albarn jumping around the stage before admitting that he is, “Gonna have to go back to wearing T-shirts. This is ridiculous”.
The band then played two tracks from ‘Everyday Robots’, ‘You & Me’ and ‘Photographs (You Are Taking Now)’, before continuing on into old The Good, The Bad & The Queen single ‘Kingdom Of Doom’ and ‘Poison’, from his 2012 collaboration with Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and Tony Allen, Rocket Juice & the Moon.
Albarn then addressed the crowd again, giving a speech about his songwriting: “I made this record with Richard Russell [XL Recordings boss],” he began. “He said, ‘I really want to hear you playing with your four string guitar’. The reason I have it isn’t anything fancy. When I first started writing songs with Blur, anything apart from a C chord on the piano was too rich sounding, and if you play ascending bar chords on a guitar, then sometimes the top two strings clash. So I got rid of those. I guess I could have learnt to play it properly.” He continued: “This is what happens when I play like this, ‘cos let’s face it, it’s pretty similar every time I play the guitar.”
Current album track ‘Hostiles’ followed, before Gorillaz offering ‘El Manana’. The band then walked off stage, leaving Albarn on his own, spotlit at the piano. Teasing the crowd by telling them to “hold on and see if he can remember this one”, he then played old Blur single ‘Out of Time’ before being joined again by his band for a raucous version of ‘All Your Life’ – the B-side to ’97 Blur single ‘Beetlebum’.
Re-emerging for the encore, Albarn then introduced “an old friend” of his – rapper Kano, who joined the band for a run through of Gorillaz hit ‘Clint Eastwood’. The singer then introduced a choir to the stage who “he’d only met today” to play new track ‘Mr Tembo’ – written about an elephant who’d lost its mother – and album closer ‘Heavy Seas of Love’. The choir then exited, before Albarn concluded the evening with Blur favourite ‘This Is A Low’.
Albarn will play the second of two London dates tonight, at Queen Mary University’s Great Hall in Mile End.
Damon Albarn and The Heavy Seas played:
‘Lonely, Press Play’
‘Tomorrow Comes Today’
‘Kids With Guns’
‘You & Me’
‘Photographs (You Are Taking Now)’
‘Kingdom Of Doom’
‘Out of Time’
‘All Your Life’
‘Heavy Seas of Love’
‘This Is A Low’