Tuesday 11 June 2019

On Stage: The Good, The Bad & The Queen @ Paradiso

I've probably written it here before, that Damon Albarn is one my musical heroes. Almost everything he touches is gold in my eyes and I think he's one of the best songwriters and musicians of the past couple of decades. I was thrilled to hear The Good, The Bad & The Queen were back with a second album Merrie Land after ten years of silence and a tour that would pass through my hometown.

The Good, The Bad & The Queen at Paradiso Amsterdam, June 6 2019

Not only does this band have Damon Albarn, it also has one of my drummer heroes Tony Allen behind the kit. To top it off there's Paul Simonon on bass, who used to play for The Clash, and Simon Tong, former guitarist for The Verve. The latter two are playing a lot with Albarn, including Gorillaz. Yes, that's not a bad group together I'd say. Set to a backdrop of a classic London scene, some table lamps spread around the stage and some string lights hanging above, the mood couldn't be more perfect tonight in Paradiso. When the band steps onto the stage you can see they are eager to play and all the ingredients are in place for a beautiful night.

Even better, the night turns into a magical one with a group that sounds better than ever, has a lot of fun playing together and has an incredible collection of songs. On stage they have a couple of reinforcements, to do justice to their music. They made only two albums, but quality definitely is more important than quantity in this case, since both records are full of little gems. This is not Blur or Gorillaz, that have some insane bangers to knock out. These songs are a bit harder and require you to really dig in. However tonight this is not a problem at all, since Albarn will drag you into this melancholic world.

Both albums are critical of London and England as a whole, where Merrie Land draws inspiration from the Brexit vote. That doesn't mean this is a political heavy night. Albarn does touch on the subject a few times, but for the rest the music is speaking. You can see he is used to the biggest stages, since he's exploring every corner of this smaller stage that is already filled with musicians and equipment. It's as if he wants to sing to everyone individually, wants to look everyone into the eye and wants to dance with everyone here tonight. There even turns out to be a whole string section on the balcony above us, I found out only after the concert.

The small group of youngsters in front of the stage, who are probably his fellow country men, draw a big smile on his face every time they jump up and down singing along every word in every song. This is the wonderful vibe in here tonight, that only keeps getting better. The setlist is split in half, serving Merrie Land before and after a short intermezzo the songs of The Good, The Bad & The Queen. Almost all songs of both albums are being played here tonight. The slow songs turn into lush intimate moments, while the more up tempo ones keep the party going.

Albarn is constantly looking for contact with the rest of the band. Tony Allen seems to be smiling for the entire set and Simonon is a delight to watch, how he is handling his bass, swinging back and forth. Tong is focused on his guitar mostly, but is definitely in the moment. I can only watch these musicians in awe and try to absorb every second. After more than one and a half hours the band take a bow to receive their well deserved round of applause. This is one of those exceptional nights that I'll always remember and will treasure for ever.

All Pictures

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01. Merrie Land
02. Gun to the Head
03. Nineteen Seventeen
04. The Great Fire
05. Lady Boston
06. The Truce of Twilight
07. Ribbons
08. The Last Man to Leave
09. The Poison Tree
10. History Song
11. 80's Life
12. Kingdom of Doom
13. Herculean
14. The Bunting Song
15. Nature Springs
16. A Soldier's Tale
17. Three Changes
18. Green Fields
19. The Good, The Bad & The Queen

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