Damon Albarn played many songs from his new album, and finished with a sizzling encore.
The Saturday evening of Latitude festival was headlined by Damon Albarn. As the clouds began to gather and the air became ominously muggier, the crowds flocked to this rare opportunity to catch the man who co-founded Blur and Gorillaz and has more latterly embarked on a number of solo ventures. Looking 20 years younger than his 46 years of age, he bounced on to the stage in double-denim to belt out a number of hits from his latest solo album Everyday Robots. Now, I know I’m not alone in saying that Albarn’s performance was the event I was most looking forward to amongst the weekend’s first class line-up; however, I dare say I’m also not alone in confessing that I spent the first hour of the set in a state of reluctant disappointment as the tracks became increasingly melancholy and somehow apathetic. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Albarn is more than Parklife and Demon Days and that he was always going to promote his solo material… and the album is a fantastic collection of thoughtful songs that speak to popular cynicism about modern life – I’m just not sure that amounts to a wise choice for a headline act on a Saturday night at a music festival.
As the gig went on the threatened storm broke and the crowd were enlivened by lightning forks, cracks of thunder and torrential summer rain. Spirits were finally lifted – and then came the saving grace of the set. Albarn’s encore restored our faith in the imagination and creativity of the man who has kept us guessing over two decades of a career at the top of the musical scene. He announced the arrival of Blur bandmate Graham Coxon to the stage to perform the Blur classic, Tender, before being joined by rapper Kano for a marvellous rendition of Gorillaz track Clint Eastwood. The crowd was by now alive and frenzied, and Albarn lived up to all expectations when he introduced the Leytonstone City Mission Choir to join him in the new Heavy Seas Of Love. No doubt the crowd left thrilled and elated – it’s just a shame the potential of this highly anticipated event wasn’t realised for the first hour and a half of the show.