Damon Albarn at the Barbican
Damon Albarn was on fine form last night as he performed his Iceland-inspired concept album, The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows.
The veteran singer-songwriter appeared on stage with a small ensemble of musicians, including his regular collaborators Demon Strings, and ran through the album, even including a few “outtakes” at the end. Initially planned as an orchestral cinematic production, the album and show were changed after the Covid-19 pandemic put a halt to proceedings. With a much smaller touring ensemble than Albarn initially envisioned, the gig instead took the form of a much more intimate, but no less impactful performance.
From the off, it was clear that Albarn was exploring a soft tonal quality, with sweeping strings and understated vocals. The title track opener built slowly, layering instrumentation to produce a soft ambience that persisted throughout many of the songs. It was a captivating way to start the concert and set the tone for what was to be a memorable evening of music.
Alongside the slow builds and understated orchestral exploration, there were also some stand-out tracks that picked up the tempo and the volume. Particular highlights included The Tower of Montevideo, where the steady drumbeat and intricate saxophone gave off a lounge-music vibe, and Polaris, where Albarn and his band crescendoed into a foot-stomping finale.
This was all accompanied by incredible lighting design. For most of the night, Albarn was concealed in semi-darkness, visible only as a silhouette. The soft blue glow of the stage perfectly accompanied the musical motifs, especially during the quieter sections, but even when the tone shifted into explosions of sound, the lighting followed suit and underpinned the shift perfectly. Possibly the finest example of this was when Albarn picked up a huge horn and blasted it across the audience, accompanied by a melee of tones from his band.
Overall, the performance was incredible to watch. It had moments of introspection, moments of beauty and moments when it was clear that everyone, on stage and in the audience, was just having fun.
Photos: Mark Allan/Barbican
For further information and future events visit Damon Albarn’s website here.
Watch the video for the single The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows here: