Review by James Attwood with Photography by Laura Chen

Following the release of the culturally relevant album Merrie Land late last year, supergroup The Good, the Bad & the Queen announced a string of one off live dates around the UK. I was lucky enough to catch them at their sold out show at the prestigious London Palladium.

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It was the turn of Blackpool Tower Ballroom organist Trevor Raven to open up proceedings. And though a good fit for the bill in the respect that the album features well, an organ and was first conceived by Albarn in Blackpool, I couldn’t help but feel that there could of been a better suited support from the plentiful artists around in 2019. This left an air of awkwardness about the room.

Two red tinted lamps are sat either side of the stage, and would not look out of place in a musky Victorian London boozer. Setting an eerie tone, they suit the iconic venue and tone of the album perfectly.

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Spaghetti Western style music fills the room before Damon & Co walk on to the sound of a string quartet, their hand painted mural visible in the backdrop of an eerie London setting.

They open the set with a rendition of title track Merrie Land. What’s instantly striking is how well these tracks translate and are captivating in a live setting, despite their intricate arrangements and distance away from Damon’s previous works. Damon is on fine form this evening, the audience are pleased to see him at the front row, and despite having being quite sedate in TV performances with the band, he is quite the opposite this evening.

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Drummer Tony Allen is as cooler than a fool in a swimming pool with his shades on and employing his signature, if sluggish, world music drumming. Meanwhile bassist Paul Simonon, still playing his iconic white bass that was smashed on the front cover of London Calling, provides reggae tinged grooves and holds his bass pointing to the audience like a revolver.

Gun To The Head follows and sees the crowd up on their feet and singing their hearts out, hands flailing in the air.

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Tracks such as The Truce of Twilight, The Great Fire and Drifters and Trawlers gain a similar reception from the audience who remain in their numbers near the front of the stage in the iconic seated venue.

There is the very effective addition of a full Welsh Male Choir this evening who are revealed by a curtain drop for album track Lady Boston. As their part indeed makes the track, it would be rude not to include it in a live setting. The choir are given their spotlight moment later on as they perform an acapella rendition of a traditional song.

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Damon’s musicality is clear throughout the evening, moving from Guitar to Piano where his classical roots are clear and evident on The Last Man to Leave, which at times is reminiscent of the crazed fairground music that Blur patented.

The Good, the Bad & the Queen delivered this evening as if they were one of the great bands that their members hail from, without appearing as a pretentious side project with little audience interaction or lacklustre stage presence, which happens too often and can disappoint in a live setting.

Catch them at several UK/EU festivals this Summer, I can’t recommend it enough.

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