Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Graham Coxon – The Roundhouse, London 02/08/14

06 August 2014, 08:23 | Written by Kathleen Prior

An interesting format, this gig showcased the split personality of Coxon’s musical persona. In the first half he aired his Nick Drake-esque acoustic ballads, and in the second he stepped back in to his rockstar shoes with a high octane set.

Spanning his entire 16-year solo career across two and a half hours was a “marathon” – as Coxon admitted with a hint of intimidation in his voice. Yet with eight albums to fall back on, the song selection was wide and a number were introduced with the confession that they had never been played before.

Reflective, Coxon looked back at his career and openly questioned some of the decisions he had made. “I never released this one” he announced as he started to play, ‘Walking Down the Highway’, before pondering, “maybe I should have done”. He was intimate and friendly to the crowd, making quips that raised small chuckles. This first struck me as a warm humility, though later felt more like the quiet hubris of someone whose historical success excused the need for showmanship.

Coxon’s best known song, and in fact the only one that most of my peers were able to name, was curiously left out of the playlist. Though in his striped red and blue t-shirt, he was an accurate fit of his self-portrait on “Freakin’ Out”’s single cover. With his messy brown hair and 1950s specs, Coxon is still the epitome of geek chic in a style that hasn’t evolved since his Britpop fame. His live band included a spirited drummer with a ‘fro that danced wildly with his beats, two dextrous females who switched between keys, percussion and vocals and a campaigning guitarist wearing a vest top that called for an end to page three. At one point the bassist had some sound issues, with an engineer running to his aid mid-track. “Oh flipping ‘eck!”, hollered Coxon, before a member of the audience jested that he should be given a tambourine. “Or some maracas?” Coxon retorted.

During the acoustic set, Coxon sat upon a stool wistfully strumming out his ditties. He sang with a slight drawl and a bittersweet tone, from the deep and gnarly to the almost delicate. His lyrics have a poignancy and an emotional rawness, drenched in disconsolation yet without self-pity. The spotlit solitary figure, raised seating and middle-aged crowd gave the gig a theatrical feel, and when the interval came I half expected an usher selling ice-creams to wander between the aisles. Nevertheless, it was a genteel addition to the array of events being held by the Roundhouse as part of its Summer Sessions.

It was in the second half that the gig came alive - as tight as it was thunderous. From the melancholic head-banging “Big Bird” opener, bass reverberated through my seat. Coxon’s electrifying slide was impressive, if a few of his notes a little flat. As “Bitter Tears” was ramped up a few notches with heavy grunge guitars and unrelenting drums, it harked back to a former life of sex, drugs and rock and roll. “Tell It Like It Is” followed with its stabbing riff and simple sing-along chorus.

Two gentleman in front of me tried to “have it” from the safety and comfort of their seat, flailing their arms around as they nodded their heads furiously in time. It seemed remarkably apt for a gig that had some great tunes, yet never seemed to get off the ground.

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