The Good, the Bad & The Queen, SWG3, Glasgow ****
With Blur on extended hiatus, it made sense to reunite his alt-pop supergroup The Good, The Bad & the Queen. Released in 2007, their self-titled debut album was a song cycle about London. Their belated follow-up, Merrie Land, encompasses the fragile fate of Britain as a whole.
Albarn’s accomplices are bassist Paul Simonon, formerly of the Clash, ex-Verve guitarist Simon Tong, and virtuoso drummer and Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen. An eclectic line-up, but the music they make basically sounds like Blur in their Kinks, Madness and Specials-influenced phase.
That’s no bad thing. They excel at stirring a sinister fog of minor-key drama and weary tenderness. One minute they sound like a seedy Soho brothel – an atmosphere abetted by the old-fashioned red-bulb table lamps which adorned the stage – the next a lonely seaside carousel.
They performed Merrie Land in its entirety, followed by an encore of songs from their debut. Despite the sombre subject matter, Albarn – a natural showman – was in high-kicking spirits. Who says the end of Britain as we know it has to be depressing?
I left feeling pessimistic yet entertained and defiant. You can’t ask for a more British inner conflict than that.