The Good, the Bad & the Queen

Trolling South by Southwest 2007

The Good, the Bad & the Queen

Stubb's, Friday, March 16

Sporting a black top hat and leading a hand-picked group through his lovely, melancholic tone-poem album about London during war, Damon Albarn channeled the Mad Hatter and Guy Fawkes during GBQ's much anticipated Friday night closing set. Albarn knows success (Blur, Gorillaz), and his new vehicle – built with Fela Kuti timekeeper Tony Allen, Verve guitarist Simon Tong, and Clash bassist Paul Simonon – played their eponymous debut straight through. Said LP is ambitious, insightful, and entertaining, yet the same couldn't be said for the band's showcase, even if "Kingdom of Doom" and "Green Fields" made their recorded counterparts seem flat. The Demon Strings added harmonic nuance – when they could be heard. Moreover, as on tape, master percussionist Allen was criminally underutilized. And given some abrupt transitions, this concept band has burnishing work left. Still, two encores were gravy, particularly closer Syrian/Lebanese hip-hopper Eslam Jawaad, his rap branding an exclamation point after the album's gestalt.

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