The Good, The Bad, and The Queen
March 18, 2007
BY JASON SONGE
There are few bands that come around which I must see up close. The Good, The Bad, and The Queen(which, for the record, is only the name of the record, not the band, but I gotta call them something. When confronted in an interview I recently read about this, Damon Albarn wasn't bothered at the thought people might think it pretentious not to name his band) is one of them. Each member of the band is such an accomplished musician that I wanted to be close in case anything awesome happened. So, I waited for about two hours near the stage. The band was Blur and Gorillaz member Damon Albarn, Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Verve and Gorillaz guitarist Simon Tong, and Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen. In the end, getting close got me an enjoyable, long study of the musicians and their movements. Awesome moments were few and far between, but that's not a negative criticism. I accepted from moment one that this concert was gonna be subtle. It wasn't until after the concert that I felt how sublime the music was.
Joining the band onstage was a four piece female string section. They all wore tophats and heels, which smattered of misogyny, but the view was nice, nonetheless. Because of the string section and a fifth member that filled in on guitar, keyboards, and vibraphone, the live concert sounded as good and really better than the album. It was much cooler to see Albran pound away at the piano up close than it's been to listen to it. During one of the songs, Albarn laid into the piano, and sure enough, there was steaming coffee on top of the piano as he was doing it. Can you guess what happened next? Yep, that coffee cup came down, the lid came off, and his hands got burned and turned red pretty quick. But, the great thing? He didn't stop playing.
The songs were catchy, moody, detached, lackadaisical, and content. This wasn't music that was gonna knock you over the head. This was dub and reggae-influenced melodic pop. The bass was very important to the mix, and Simonon was actually the coolest part of the show. Albarn was half-asleep, Tong was a zombie, Allen was constantly relaxed and unfazed, but Simonon still had his Clash swagger. He pointed his bass at the audience members, made eyes at the girls, and even went and sat with the string section for a bit. Albarn and Tong seemed like they were upper middle class, while Simonon seemed like a real tough. Allen--well, Allen was so cool that he didn't need to show it. Allen hardly broke a sweat back there. It was obvious by his movements and the way he hit his cymbals that he had tremendous feel. I wish he had time to put on a proper clinic.
Albarn dedicated the performance to the people of New Orleans. "I hope this makes you feel...something." It was an obvious bow to what we've gone through since Katrina. After one song, Albarn said "You're welcome" without anyone saying "Thank you." His ego was refreshing in some kind of way. It's nice to see someone who's sure of himself. It's better than false modesty.