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SXSW Live Shot: Damon Albarn

Down the street from tragedy...

By Luke Winkie, 3:25PM, Thu. Mar. 13

SXSW Live Shot: Damon Albarn
photo by John Anderson

I heard a commotion, but nothing specific. The news kept trickling in around me as “are you okay?” texts began circulating. Damon Albarn was already over an hour late getting onstage. Nothing like a profound tragedy to sharpen anxiety.

It was as if he knew. The songs from his upcoming solo album Everyday Robots ring with a casual melancholy. Simple little piano things, capturing the same brand of distant helplessness that the best Gorillaz songs brew. His voice flickered with trademark hoarseness, blonde hair spiking in front of his eyes.

He marked the midpoint with “On Melancholy Hill,” and by that point, most of our friends had checked in. Initial shock had turned to tears. There was nothing sadder.

This SXSW will undoubtedly carry a pall, but I’ll always remember how Albarn helped shoulder the burden. His empathy is one of his greatest and most underappreciated songwriting strengths, and it was especially necessary Wednesday night. The set had to be truncated to nine songs due to the long delay, but Damon Albarn has always been able to take the little moments and make them feel infinite.

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