Graham Coxon has finally come of age as a solo performer. While Damon Albarn, his former Blur band mate, has experimented with a variety of projects and found comfortable success with Gorillaz, Coxon has steadily been finding success of his own.
His show at the compact Edinburgh venue, the Liquid Rooms, demonstrated just how far he’s come. Standing before a hungry audience was a man who is comfortable in his own skin as a performer, and quietly confident of his own musicianship. This was by no means a starry performance, but an intimate demonstration of raw musical talent for true music lovers.
The unique aspect of the gig was that Coxon allowed his slightly awkward, slightly eccentric personality shine through, throughout the set. With his Essex accent, self-deprecating humour and modish dress sense, he’s almost the quintessential Englishman. And if the Scots are notorious for giving the English a hard time, it didn’t show here, as the crowd chanted in a football crowd manner: “Cox-on, Cox-on, Cox-on” in between songs. They may have mocked his accent, but Coxon appeared comfortable with the Scottish banter, and the crowd in turn lapped up his quirky wit, and thus a beautiful relationship was born.
The set was an interesting mix of material from the new album Love Travels At Illegal Speeds, its predecessor Happiness In Magazines, and a few of his lesser-known earlier tracks. While all the hits were in evidence, perhaps the most refreshing thing about a Coxon live show is that he doesn’t always go for the crowd-pleasing options. One of the set’s highlights was Girl Done Gone from Happiness in Magazines, a laid-back bluesy track, which started off powerful in its stark simplicity, and culminated in a frenzied masterclass in guitar excellence.
Of the singles, Freakin’ Out was the best received of the night, and is where Coxon becomes his most anthemic. Bittersweet Bundle Of Misery was perhaps the most disappointing track, with a weak vocal delivery by Coxon and a lack of energy, contrasting with the rest of the set. Latest single Standing On My Own Again was far more uplifting than the recorded version – a pure joy and another hit with the audience.
After the frenzied, high energy set was complete, Coxon and his band returned for a charmingly shambolic encore. Perhaps it was for effect, but the audience got the feeling that Coxon was making this up as he went along, adding to the intimate and charming feel to the evening. He publicly berated his bass player for changing his instrument at the wrong point, the crowd sided with the shame-faced bassist and Coxon looked sheepish. However, all was forgiven, after a superb rendition of People Of The Earth. This was the sort of performance that would put many current punk pretenders to shame. Everyone was having too much fun at this point, but the band looked set to leave the stage until Coxon told them: “I thought we said that if we were having fun we’d play this one”, and the night ended with a fun Who The Fuck.
Coxon put his all into this show. He had more guitar changes than Kylie has costume changes, and played his instruments with such zest that it’s easy to see how he maintains his skinny frame. The Coxon workout video, I’m certain, would involve air guitar acrobatics, combined with a diet of fags and booze. But if there’s a flaw to his live show, it’s that it can become a little self-indulgent. He gets lost in his music and is truly a musician’s musician. However, it’s this passion that sets him apart from his contemporaries, and in a sea of samey bands its refreshing to watch a musician that is distinctly true to himself.