Graham Coxon

Roundhouse, Camden on Saturday 2 August 2014

Graham Coxon may well be the most unlikely rock star of all time. He's certainly one of the most reluctant. However in spite of this, he has built himself a reputation which sees him jostling for the position of the greatest guitarist this country has ever produced.

Such is the body of work he has produced away from Blur, Coxon is able to produce an overwhelming setlist of two halves – an hour of acoustic songs, during which he is joined by his band halfway through, before plugging in the electric guitars for a raucous second half. As he ambles awkwardly on to the stage, he timidly acknowledges that “this is going to be a marathon”, which proves to be the case, but it's a rewarding one nonetheless.

Picking songs from seven of his eight albums in chronological order, the acoustic half of the evening demonstrates Coxon's impressive skill, with the impossibly complex finger-picking on 'Sorrow's Army' evidence of why he is held in such high esteem. The sparse nature of the set also provides a focus on Coxon's voice – naturally uncomfortable and not always in tune. However, this proves to be an endearing combination, adding a heart and vulnerability to his lyrical themes of infatuation and hopeless love.

It's with a band behind him though that Coxon is truly able to shine, more so in the second set: over an hour of punk energy laced with anger, frustration and distortion. It's quite clear that the set up suits him more, evidently taking great joy in making such a tremendous racket, he rolls around on the floor during a chaotic rendition of 'Who The Fuck'. Remember when he was the shy, awkward misfit of the Britpop years?

Although it seems somewhat of a maverick decision to not rely on his most successful hits like 'Freakin Out', the show is used as an opportunity to play songs rarely played, or never played before. The first ever live outing of 'Tell It Like It Is' from his 2006 album 'Love Travels At Illegal Speeds' proves that this approach to the set was justified, brilliantly encapsulating  everything that Coxon does so well – a jaunty, punky tune which tries to hide the lyrical heartbreak at its core. In hindsight, it could have easily been an indie-disco sensation. Such is life.

Elsewhere across the two sets, five new songs are aired, each one sounding completely different from the next and all hinting at a bright, yet indefinable future. Considering the rich musical tapestry he has woven throughout his career both in Blur and on his own, it is to his immense credit that he is able to challenge himself and his audience both in the studio and in live settings such as this. Whilst Blur's future still remains unclear, Coxon's next moves are not to be missed.

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article by: Craig Jones

published: 06/08/2014 13:41