Damon Albarn, who does not need any presentation, hypnotised the Belgian public for 90 glorious minutes with his band The Good, The Bad & The Queen live from Werchter Rocks Festival. On the same day, Beirut, Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons had their gigs but the biggest act was undoubtedly the performance of Albarn’s super group.
Accompanied by legendary member of The Clash, Paul Simonon (yes, the one that got you in the had ‘Rock The Casbah’ groovy bass line), Afro-beat hero and top notch drummer Tony Allen, Simon Tong of The Verve on guitar, the Albarn’s voice and moves delivered an authentic show. The soothing smoothness of the show was made possible with the inlcusion of a female string quartet that also enriched the melodies with background choir, together with the soft beats of the percussions and by keyboards’ tunes. The band set up a magical atmosphere inspiring sensations of attending a cabaret music with glimpses of slow ballads of and dragged the public into a genuine rock voyage.
This gig was not like the others on that very same day. While entering the stage, greeted warmly by the crowd, the band instantly rolled into the notes of ‘Merrie Land’ which has been taken from the latest homonym album, and the public responded enthusiastically. Unlike many other bands, who maintained a somewhat cold approach with the public, Albarn mad his way down on the parterre walkway and offered himself tête-à-tête with a spectator of the first row during a rendition of ‘The Truce of Twilight’. Likewise, when the lead singer started playing his melodica or when he ran towards the piano, half of the hall was dancing, jumping and laughing with Albarn visibly pleased with the crowd interaction.
All this may look very Anglo-English but on stage, it was something else. Like the great mimes who are able to improvise animal behaviours, objects, moods and situations in every context, Damon Albarn is a ‘mindful’ performer who lives the moment. When his wine was over and he was clearly dehydrated, he preferred beer to water and more specifically, “a good, cold Belgian beer” and eventually received a Stella Artois can.
It is worth mentioning that throughout the lyrics, we could easily felt the disappointment for the Brexit. Like an exorcist, Damon Albarn raised a little wooden child-shaped African statue wrapped with the English flag and, in parallel, delivers zingers to Boris Johnson by mimicking the House of Commons speaker “Order, Order, Order” wording while the band began ‘History Song’. This scene was the best portrait of Merrie Land, published in November 2018, where Damon Albarn laid down his tender, nostalgic and loving vision of his native England.
As if to remind us that it was live, that the real artists make the difference, that is exactly what The Good, The Bad and The Queen did throughout an elegant and humble performance. Finally, they have the merit of proposing a live concert, in the most literal sense of the term, in spite of so many other artists only reproducing mechanically a formatted, predictable and routine set.
The Good, The Bad and The Queen Setlist
Gun to the Head
The Great Fire
The Truce of Twilight
Drifters & Trawlers
The Poison Tree
Kingdom of Doom
A Soldier’s Tale
The Good, The Bad & The Queen