Not making people dance
Graham Coxon - Live At The Leadmill, Sheffield

In all Blur’s dormant years, it’s Graham Coxon who has remained true to the group. Failing to start up a cheese farm, run for MP or create an opera, Coxon is the only member who has continued creating music in the same vein for independent, alternative music fans.

And when looking at Blur’s back catalogue it’s no surprise. Coxon’s print is firmly pressed on every song they produced. From ‘Coffee and TV’ to ‘Beetlebum’ and ‘Song 2’ – each track highlights that distorted, scuzzy guitar that made Blur, Blur.

However, Graham is mainly a musician for the background. After accusations of bullying in Blur, Coxon became the sympathetic guitarist who escaped his monstrous superstar surroundings and quickly carved out an underground scene of his own. But now with eight albums under his belt he still remains unconvincing as a frontman in his own right.

With rave reviews, the guitarist’s latest offering ‘A+E’ has surpassed his previous output, creating a fresh, gritty noise of a record – but tonight it becomes of multi-layered mess.

As the band sneak onstage with barely a flicker of enthusiasm the room instantly fills with thumping bass and layers of distortion. Backed up by ‘A+E’, 'Advice' is a thrash punk mix over crackling vocals and heavy riffs, while other tracks appear with a soft jolt and drowning distortion, minimising the impact.

As the band bursts into another intro each chord is note perfect but the crowd look like they're in a long queue. There's no audience interaction whatsoever, with Coxon barely even smiling towards the crowd. Instead we're treated to over-long solos and repetitive rhythms.

It’s not until the encore when Coxon truly relaxes onstage. ‘All Over Me’ becomes a touching interlude as the female backing vocals complement Coxon’s unruly yelps perfectly, while ‘What’ll It Take’ provides an apt chorus line “What’ll it take to make you people dance.”

As a drunken man shouts “What’s this?” to a member of the audience while pointing at the stage, it’s clear Coxon hasn’t got the presence to capture the whole room. Even as he thrashes through ‘Freaking Out’ he fails to sing with any authority, contradicting his post-punk rhythms with an attitude that’s, well, just too nice.

The majority of the audience are here through some Blur connection and while Coxon may be the most likeable of the group, for someone who’s spent twenty-three years onstage, he’s still uncomfortable in the spotlight. ‘A+E’ may have provided a breakthrough but Coxon still hasn’t gained the confidence to shine.

Words by Ruth Offord
Photos by Jamie Boynton

Click here for a photo gallery of the gig.

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