It is rare to see four legends from musical genres as disparate as brit-pop, afrobeat, punk, and psychedelic rock. Tonight, the large crowd at SWG3 holler their approval as one by one they enter the stage. Damon Albarn, Tony Allen, Simon Tong, and Paul Simonon collectively make up The Good The Bad and The Queen. 11 years after the first record they are on the second date of their first-ever full UK tour.
Live, the sound of The Good The Bad and The Queen is supplemented by a small string section, a percussionist, and a keyboard. They launch straight into their new album Merrie Land. The album is heavy on folky dub complete with a woozy organ sounding keyboard. Lyrically it covers the confusion and disconnects Damon feels surrounding Brexit and Modern Britain. Flitting between pleas for togetherness and angry social critique.
In front of a picturesque backdrop showing a rather quaint Victorian version of Britain, Merrie Land is played in full. The title track expresses anxiety over Brexit while sounding heartfelt and tender. The songs from Merrie Land follow a similar motif, with Gun to The Head’s memorable chorus, and the Last Man To Leave sudden tonal change from farce to somber making them stand out as highlights from this part of the set.
Throughout Damon Albarn is an entertaining presence as a frontman he kicks and sprints his way around the stage occasionally conducting the very talented ensemble behind him. Paul Simonon is still simply ice-cool wielding his bass as if it was a machine gun and strutting around. While Tony Allen gets a hero’s reception. The whole group has obvious chemistry and the crowd laps them up.
As the band finishes playing Merrie Land the first part of the set is over. After a brief intermission, they return to play songs from their self-titled album. For 80s Life, Damon brings out a puppet and indulges in a little ventriloquism with puppet known as Tommy. It’s rather odd but playful and it certainly amuses Damon and does not detract from the shimmering piano melody and gentle backing vocals.
This is followed by the Kingdom Of Doom a mini-epic of a song, it is rousing and deftly anthemic. As it melds the string sections, dainty keys, and dub bass together before finishing with loud drums and a fierce guitar riff, showing every element in harmony is the standout moment of the set. Proceedings are closed out with their self-titled track which picks up the tempo throughout making for a thrilling cacophony of noise at the climax.
The term Super Group is a loathsome one that suggests vanity and ego-driven projects. However, The Good The Bad and The Queen demonstrate that this project is some very talented musicians pushing themselves in different directions and putting on a fabulous live show.