LIVE: Damon Albarn - Edinburgh Park, Edinburgh, 24/08/2021

LIVE: Damon Albarn – Edinburgh Park, Edinburgh, 24/08/2021

There’s always the risk of taking things out of context. If you walked past the open-air tent where tonight’s gig is taking place at the end of the show, you’d hear the crowd joyfully joining in with with a song from Parklife, the Blur album that went to no.1 in 1994, making Albarn and the band household names. If this is all you’d heard, you might run the risk of thinking he was trading on past glories.

That is the risk of taking things out of context – but like I say, that’s the end of the show.

The first thing Damon does when he takes to the stage is to bid us ‘good evening’ and encourage the crowd to the front of the stage. There’s an excited rush and I’m torn between pondering the wisdom of the this versus the cursing that I’ve just ordered a drink to be brought to my seat (we’re not on the toilet circuit now, Toto). He seats himself by his Wurlitzer keyboard and opens with the title track from his forthcoming album The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows, due out in November.

The album was recorded at his home studio in Devon, The Barn, and was inspired by the nature and landscapes of Iceland, where he has been a frequent visitor since the 1990s. The music was written and workshopped in Iceland and the title is taken from a John Clare poem entitled Love and Memory.

This opening sets the tone for the evening that follows. Possibly because it’s the Edinburgh International Festival and not a greatest hits gig taking place in an enormodome, the substantial body of Albarn’s work appears, with more acts than it’s possible to keep track of; it’s tempting to suggest that tickets should come with a suggestion to refamiliarise with all parts of his catalogue. It’s not an ‘indie’ show, it’s a show that feels soulful, sublime in so many parts and often deeply funky, drawing on the afro-beat that he clearly loves, surrounded by a band who are soulful and funky to the core, and a string quartet.

It’s a joy to hear so many of these songs again, a particular personal highlight is ‘Lonely Press Play‘ from his first solo album proper Everyday Robots. It’s great on record, but live it takes on a whole new appearance and sound. The new album in November should be an interesting listen, as he plays ‘Polaris‘ and ‘Particles‘ back to back it’s clear that this is an album that should make people sit up and take notice. But it’s also a joy to hear ‘Out Of Time‘ from Blur’s 2003 Think Tank, taken to a whole new level with the addition of saxophone.

The show finishes with ‘This Is A Low‘ from Parklife. It fits in perfectly with the show he’s played, and the crowd join in as one. It was always sublime, melancholy and uplifting simultaneously, and rather like ‘Sing‘ on Blur’s debut LP Leisure, an indication early on that there was more to them – and Albarn- than just the hits.

This year marks thirty years since Damon Albarn broke through commercially with Blur, but this show is a reminder of how far he’s travelled as an artist. Now in his fifties, he doesn’t seem to be running out of ideas, but crucially, is able to shape these into actual songs (not always a given with many artists). Lord knows what he’ll be doing a year, five years, or two decades from now, but the chances are he’ll be continuing to surprise and delight in equal measures.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.