The Good, The Bad & The Queen
SWG3, Glasgow ★★★★★
IT’S possible to imagine the Damon Albarn-fronted The Good, The Bad & The Queen’s second album Merrie Land as a dramatic counterpoint to Blur’s 1994 classic Parklife. Where the latter was a cheeky, swaggering slice of London life on uppers that became emblematic of Britpop and Cool Britannia, the former tells the sombre story of a bitterly divided England on the cusp of Brexit. Recorded mainly in Blackpool, and played almost in full in the first half of this thoroughly engrossing show, Merrie Land is Albion on a bad acid trip, all burned down piers, boarded-up amusement arcades and vinegary rainwater pooling in your chips.
Joined by Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen and former Verve guitarist Simon Tong, Albarn has surrounded himself with a uniquely eclectic and deft-handed ensemble, and live they realised their queasily kaleidoscopic vision in a richness of styles, shades and textures. Be it the haunted house organ whirl of the new album’s title track, or Gun To The Head’s Kinks-on-Valium drowsy reverie, or the fairground dub of The Great Fire.
When not singing of jubilee mugs, maypoles and ‘disappointment of the Windrush’, Albarn was adding sinister dapples of upright piano and echo-drenched melodica. Punching the air and re-tooling the lyrics of the coda to The Truce Of Twilight on the fly to the ‘dance schools of Scotland’ before breaking out into a stiffly inexpert but enthusiastic can-can, the Essex lad seemed to be enjoying himself.
After a short interval, TGTBATQ returned for a root through their back catalogue that included 80’s Life, performed by Albarn via the creepy conduit of a ventriloquist’s dummy with a Wolver- hampton accent. Like much about this bric-a-brac curiosity of a concert, it was the kind of hallucinatory cry-laugh into the void that Brexit Britain deserves right now.