Graham Coxon rocks Oxjam with ear-splitting in-store show
Now in its sixth year The Oxjam Music Festival plays a huge role in raising awareness and funds for the influential Oxfam charity, and this time around the organisers have pulled off something of a coup by securing Blur guitarist Graham Coxon as the festival’s inaugural headliner. The charity’s flagship shop in Dalston had been converted into a makeshift venue for the occasion, with the small select crowd invited to peruse the music and clothing racks in between acts, and up-and-coming indie heartthrobs Theme Park providing support with a slightly static acoustic set.
Of course, the audience were only there for one man, although Coxon made an unlikely frontman with his dishevelled clothes (quite possibly purchased from Oxfam, in fact) and thick-rimmed glasses. Fresh from his band’s massive Olympic gig in Hyde Park he seemed a little spooked by the close quarters of the shop, visibly grimacing during solos and deflecting song requests with wonderfully deadpan humour. Then again he never really looked comfortable on stage with Blur either, at least not until he’d completed two or three somersaults, guitar in hand.
Leaning heavily on his antagonistic recent album A&E – from the unhinged opener Advice to the stunningly assured jam through Ooh, Yeh, Yeh – Coxon and his five-piece backing band trod a fine line between breezy pop in the finest British tradition, and the grimy guitar scuzz of American monoliths like Sonic Youth and Pavement. The man who famously convinced Blur to eschew Britpop for darker sounds on their 1997 self-titled album seems to have reverted to a more traditionalist groove since then – witness the wistful Kinks pastiche of Bottom Bunk, or the brilliant punk blast of Spectacular – but he still found time to wring an unholy racket from his Telecaster on the ominous motorik rumble of City Hall.
The lengthier guitar work-outs tested the patience of some of the attendees some of them perhaps hoping for an airing of Coffee & TV, but the gleefully cathartic effect of highly-strung numbers like What’ll It Take and Running For Your Life (“about getting beaten up in towns you don’t really know”) on Coxon was palpable, and the set-list was as wilfully obscure as the bulk of his solo career to date. The hardcore fans in the front row loved every second, and one of them had her request granted with an electric take on Sorrow’s Army which rounded out the set in style. A bratty and bracing antidote to Blur’s increasingly populist status as national treasures then – and all for a very good cause.
For further information and future gigs visit Graham Coxon’s website here.
Listen to Coxom performing Sorrow’s Army here: