EIF music review: Damon Albarn

With a matinee show already under his belt due to the proverbial demand, Damon Albarn (****) felt suitably loosened up for his evening performance. “Mustn't get too loose,” he cautioned himself, but not before inviting the audience to leave their seats and approach the stage - a friendly gesture, except for those who bought front row tickets on the presumption of social distancing.

Damon Albarn

With full band and string quartet in tow, the show had been billed as a preview of Albarn’s forthcoming album, The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows but in the end most of the set was suspiciously familiar, with the Blur/Gorillaz frontman in serene melancholy mode, revisiting the yearning corners of his diverse catalogue.

He could not quite sustain the mood during Lonely Press Play, instead relishing the opportunity for banter with the audience, denied for so long. But he took time to remember drummer Tony Allen, his late compadre in The Good, the Bad & the Queen with some selections from their last album together, Merrie Land, including The Poison Tree’s waltz at the end of the pier and the Brexit blues of The Great Fire, spiced with Simon Tong's acid guitar.

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There were gentle groovy incursions, an Afrojazz saxophone solo here, a ska skank on melodica there, while the string section gave trembling embellishment to bittersweet Gorillaz gem On Melancholy Hill. Spoiled for choice across the Blur catalogue, Albarn went for the plaintive Out of Time and classic shipping forecast lullaby This Is A Low.

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