Damon Albarn @ Rough Trade East, London, UK – 12th November 2021

Review and Photography by Robert Barrett

Rough Trade have built up a solid reputation for there now famous in store live shows and signings. When you see that all round musical genius Damon Albarn is next on their agenda, you would be foolish not to try for a ticket. Especially on the release date of one of his most personal and interesting solo albums.

Arriving two hours before opening I was shocked to see the already large group of fans queuing at the store’s doors. Through his various musical projects over the years Damon has developed a vast and varied fanbase of all ages, evident by the eclectic crowd that began to build up.

A rather knackered Damon appeared on the tiny stage much to the delight of the patient crowd and delivered a raw 20 minuet solo piano taster of key tracks from “The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows”. Even though the album roll out seemed to have taken a toll on him, he spent the next few hours devoting himself to the fans.

A pin drop could have been heard as the delicate lyricism and gentle piano took command of the shop. Even a cheeky stripped down cover of “Beetlebum” brought out the intoxicating beauty at its core.

Swiftly the set was moved on to a Q&A with John Kennedy, who kept the focus of the conversation to the album allowing Damon to explain the themes and influence of the record.

Damon discussed the link to Iceland, and how the project evolved over lockdown and the many recent losses in his life that crept into the lyrics. Not to say the chat wasn’t full of humour and some great anecdotes about the changing landscape of Iceland.

Finally the signing, in which Damon spent almost three hours talking and signing copies of the record, a complete gentleman to everyone. They say never meet your hero’s, but when it’s Damon Albarn I’m sure you won’t leave disappointed.

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