If I love anything, I love free stuff most of all. Especially if that free stuff is booze and finger food. I’m mad for that shit. Last night’s The Good, The Bad and The Queen gig, part of the BBC Electric Proms was notable mainly not for the return of Damon Albarn to the live fold; notable not for his newly-assembled band, including Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen and Clash bassist Paul Simonon; notable not even for the newly spraunced-up Roundhouse. No, it was notable for the free booze and finger food.
Armed with a pink wristband, to denote how much better than everyone else we were, we marched into the VIP holding pen at about 6.30pm, giving us a full hour’s worth of drinking before the first support. I chose beer, my friend chose white wine. There were some nice hors d’oeuvres as well – butterflied king prawns atop little bread, beef atop little bread, and the audacious sundried tomato filled with mozzarella. The best tactic for eating the sundried tomato was to whack the whole thing in your gob and then manage somehow. Those suckers were juicy. As I was wearing a white shirt, I decided that spillages on that white shirt would not be a good look for the night. More on that later.
The bar was filled mainly with disgusting liggers like myself. One poor guy in a sweatshirt was actively trying to network. What a loon.
At 7.30pm, the first support act started. His name was Young Tiger and he was neither young nor tigerish. He was 85, sat in a chair, walked with a stick, and read his lyrics off sheets of paper. He was accompanied by a six piece band, called the London Is The Place For Me Ensemble (crazy name, crazy guys!), who played the sort of music that only Damon Albarn and well-meaning women in tie-dye like. Apart from his final song, which was very catchy. It was called “At the Coronation” and the chorus went “I was there! / At the coronation / I was there! / At the coronation / Were you there? / At the coronation / Millions there! / At the coronation”. The song was so catchy that if you cut me in half now, the words would be written through my torso like I was a stick of rock.
After Young Tiger, more drinking. The hors d’oeuvres had mysteriously dried up. My companion spilt his white wine all over a mirrored plinth and spent much of this break trying to mop it up.
Next up, Jamie T. Described as a white, British, urban rapper, I was disappointed to discover Jamie T sounded almost inseparably like the Arctic Monkeys. We lasted but three of his awful tracks, before sloping off to the bar, commenting that the songs would have really been improved by some sort of tune.
There were less people in the bar than in the interval, but not much less. Jamie T’s howling was obviously not to everyone’s tastes. Still no hors d’oeuvres, but by now Edith Bowman had turned up. I think she’d lost quite a bit of weight. She didn’t look so good.
After Jamie T had finished, the bar filled up again. By this point, both myself and my companion were – not to put too fine a point on it – pretty drunk.
We took our seats for The Good, The Bad and The Queen. You know, every time I type that name, I want it to be better. It’s a really shit name. In fact, whenever I type that name, I really hope it ends in a different way. “Please,” I think, “let this end differently.” I feel the same way when watching “Othello”. This is a marker of how awesomely tragic this band name is. It’s a total howler.
I’m not even kidding. If this band name was a kitten, I would throw it from some castle railings onto a spike.
But never mind the band name, what do they sound like?
I mean, seriously? What a shit name. It even makes an ugly-looking abbreviation. TGTBATQ. Bleurgh.
The band sound pretty much as you’d expect when half your band is Damon Albarn and Simon Tong, the guy who took over live guitar duties from Graham Coxon for “Think Tank”-era Blur. It sounds like the more droney aspects of Gorillaz, the sort of songs that – though you can’t hear the lyrics through the fug of toothless Anglicised Afrobeat – are probably about how bad war is. Like, duh. One of the songs started something like “I wrote this song two years ago / Upon the Goldhawk Road”. Blee. Why doesn’t Damon tell us about the Nandos at Shepherd’s Bush, or that time he went to Homebase?
Tony Allen’s drumming is a huge non-event, with him soporifically padding his way through the songs, without ever truly kicking them into any kind of life. Paul Simonon throws punk shapes, whilst his bass fuzzes ineffectually away. At one point a rapper comes on, speaks unintelligibly for about twenty seconds, and then leaves. He isn’t really part of the band. In fact, he might have been a lone stage invader. It was difficult to tell.
The gig is momentarily livened by Albarn stopping a song twice, telling the rest of the band off and saying “We can play that song better than that!” before jumping around. Tony Allen looks amused at his petulance. Albarn is wearing a top hat. I haven’t liked Damon since his po-faced interview in the Britpop documentary “Live Forever”, in which he morosely plinked away on a ukulele whilst trying to dodge the fact that he was largely to blame for the “Country House”/”Roll With It” shenanigans. This gig didn’t change my mind.
The main problem with TGTBATQ, is that old chestnut: tunes. Actual Tunes were sorely in absence, with emphasis instead placed on turgid loops wobbling onto a stage, then falling off it again with almost no difference to the world. These were songs that made you realise the pointlessness of music. Why did these things exist? What did they come here for? Why were they hurting me?
After the gig, the liggers pour back into the bar. Weirdly, the staff bring round little bowls of beef stew and mash, which I really really wanted badly. The fork was way too big for the bowl, though, and as I took it, the fork catapulted beef stew at my white shirt. As I changed my shirt in the gents, someone accused me of being gay entertainment. By this point, my companion could barely stand. Having drunk only beer, I was marginally more in control of my faculties, so it was my job to get him home. In the end, he went to his girlfriend’s, and I was left to ponder the gig.
Most heavy nights of drinking make you never want to drink again. Last night made me want to only drink again, just so I can blot out the bitter truth that I live in a world where music as unquestionably balls as this is actually applauded. Now, you could argue that it was the drink that made me not enjoy this gig, but I would argue that it was the gig that made me not enjoy the drink. That, and that the music was unquestionably balls. It made me want to call my ears liars, as no sound could possibly be as bad as it sounded like to me. It couldn’t have been that bad.
Still, did I mention there was free food and booze? Whichever genius thought up that diversionary tactic deserves a raise.