Set List Bonus: Damon Albarn At Stubb's Bar-B-Q
Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.
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By Crystal Larsen
With the thousands of bands and artists taking over Austin for South by Southwest this week, there was some stiff competition for GRAMMY winner Damon Albarn, who followed buzz artist St. Vincent at the city's famous Stubb's Bar-B-Q. Even though the British singer/songwriter took the stage nearly an hour after his scheduled 12:30 a.m. start time, no one in the crowd budged because, as one fan said behind me, "It's Damon f***ing Albarn."
Just as the crowd was becoming audibly antsy (shouts of "come on!" and "just start already!" echoed from the back), Albarn arrived with his four-piece Heavy Seas band in tow, plus three string instrumentalists. Before he began his set there was one caveat: Because of the delayed start time he would play song after song, with no time for stories about his "25 years in the music business." But no one seemed to mind; after all, it was "Damon f***ing Albarn."
Known for his work as the frontman for GRAMMY-nominated alternative rock collective Blur and as co-founder of the GRAMMY-winning Gorillaz, Albarn will release his new solo set, Everyday Robots, on April 28, and his SXSW appearance marked the first U.S. stop on his current solo tour (following a performance for an Austin taping of "Jimmy Kimmel Live"). As promised, Albarn squeezed as many songs as he could into 40 minutes, including the title track of the new album and his recently released single "Lonely Press Play," which finds Albarn contemplating how technology has changed interpersonal relationships.
Albarn coupled performances of his solo material with a sprinkling of Gorillaz songs, including "Tomorrow Comes Today" and "On Melancholy Hill," and the rarely-performed-live Blur tune "All Your Life," which was released on the band's 1997 album Beetlebum. While I would have liked to have heard "Song 2" — the infectious slam-your-body-around anthem that invaded MTV in the late '90s — it was bittersweet to hear Albarn perform any Blur tune. In January at the Budokan in Japan, the band performed what Albarn considered to be their last show "for the foreseeable future."
The bright side is Albarn isn't going to stop making music. He closed with another new song, "Mr. Tembo," which he reportedly wrote to sing to a baby elephant that was adopted by his friends in Tanzania. The song combined Albarn's signature melancholy melodies with an upbeat tempo that moved many in the crowd to grab a partner and dance, or just jump up and down, stomping on already-crushed beer cans that littered the ground.
Before leaving the stage Albarn apologized to the crowd for his tardiness, but noted that's the nature of the festival and that fans would have the opportunity to see him again on Friday morning.
"Love ya," he casually said to the crowd as he waved goodbye and exited the stage. As I turned around to make my way out of the venue and back into the Red River District I spotted GRAMMY nominee Mark Foster of Foster The People. That's an experience that South by Southwest creates like no other festival — creating a space where fans can join to share their experience and musicians can join to support each other, even after they've been in the music business for 25 years.