Following the release of his critically acclaimed 8th solo album, A+E, Graham Coxon set off on a UK tour during April. We have a belated report (hands up – it was our fault it didn’t get published sooner) from the Nottingham show, written by Sarah Lay.
It’s sometimes hard to tell whether Graham Coxon loves or loathes to perform live. Sometimes he mumbles, and frowns, and stumbles, and shies away and you wonder if he wouldn’t rather be anywhere than in front of a crowd. Sometimes, he shines, he shimmies, he smirks and he takes on all comers. Sometimes, like tonight, he is a magical symphonic storm.
Touring his eighth studio album, A+E, Coxon left no doubt that he is a musical force to be reckoned with. Tonight’s set contained most of the new album at it’s unrelentingly industrial thrash best as well as punk- and lo-fi-infused numbers from earlier outings in his solo career.
Setting out with Advice he then heads for the tight, melodic yet discordant punk-pop of songs from Love Travels At Illegal Speeds. Standing on My Own Again and Don’t Let Your Man Know relax the mood and invigorate the bodies while Coxon’s creative and technical prowess as musician and frontman begin to blister through the crowd.
He returns to the Krautrock-inspired new album as we head toward mid-set and the five-piece band on stage with him add layers of sound to build the sensory pressure. The atmospheric industrialist precision of City Hall and Ooh, Yeh Yeh really benefit from being unleashed live as he coaxes unbelievable shrieks and super-charged chugging riffs from his guitar and pedals.
The full-on live assault shows a heart of metal beneath the electronic lo-fi mantle the songs wear on record. Dancing right along the line between pleasure and pain as throbbing, intricate soundscapes intensify, almost to the point of discomfort, but fall to pure exhilaration due to the delicate and seemingly accidental intimacy of the lyrics and the innocent exuberance of Coxon’s own gamboling, frenzied performance.
There are some pleasant surprises in the heavy too, moments of sultry deep south twang and the tiniest sparkling specks of pastoral picking. A hushed awe descends over the audience as the All Over Me is allowed to bloom in all its fragile beauty.
And as we near the end Graham seems relaxed, bantering with the band, referencing his own uneasiness on the microphone and even joking with the crowd. He says he’s had fun, that’s it’s been the best yet, and we cry for an encore even before he’s left the stage.
When he returns he doesn’t disappoint, rolling out more from A+E including What’ll It Take before pulling a few oldies from his back pocket in the shape of No Good Time and crowd-pleaser Freakin’ Out. All too soon it’s past curfew and Tripping Over rolls and bubbles a soothing lullaby at our parting of ways.
This is the most complete live set Graham has done (and this is perhaps true also of A+E); a culmination of the styles he’s stopped at along his musical journey so far. Far from being indulgent, or boastful of his genius it is a joyful musical moment with the man still brimming with creative curiosity.
The really enticing thing is that despite his huge back catalogue, as a solo artist and with Blur, Graham Coxon seems like a man whose creative fire is really only just starting to burn.
All words Sarah Lay. More writing by Sarah can be found here.