Damon Albarn: Raw atmospheric performance of new album at The Barbican ****

Damon Albarn performs his new album, The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows in the Barb

Damon Albarn performs his new album, The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows in the Barbican Hall on Monday 21 Feb. - Credit: Mark Allan

Damon Albarn is best known as the lead singer of Blur and Gorillaz and was one of the key figures in the Britpop era of the 90s.

At the height of Blur’s fame, he found respite visiting tranquil and scenic Iceland. He first visited in 1997 and has returned to the country many times over the years - even granted Icelandic citizenship in 2021.

His first solo project in five years is inspired by those trips to the island over three decades. Over two sold out Barbican shows, the singer performed his new album, The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows, in its entirety with added outtakes that didn’t quite make it.

Damon Albarn performs his new album, The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows in the Barb

Damon Albarn performs his new album, The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows in the Barbican Hall on Monday 21 Feb. 2022 - Credit: Mark Allan

And the goosebump-inducing concert was exactly what great live music should be; an artistic expression of real musical talent, recreated on stage without the modern pitfalls of auto tune or unnecessary distractions.

At times the gig verged on avant-garde theatre with the band performing the first few songs in darkness, creating an immersive atmosphere with the audience more alert to the sounds of the live music and consequently fully on board with Albarn’s ode to Iceland.

Damon Albarn performs his new album, The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows in the Barb

Damon Albarn performs his new album, The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows in the Barbican Hall on February 21. - Credit: Mark Allan

It was also a reminder of Albarn's status as a national treasure – his musical versatility was on full display as the sombre and atmospheric mood was at times lifted by jazzy grooves with him on the harmonica keyboard.

These shifts didn’t detract but added to a more rounded vision of what Iceland means to him, from the raw landscapes to the aurora borealis. Towards the end, he thanked the audience for waiting so long for the concert, which was originally scheduled pre-pandemic.

Most Read

“It was supposed to be a cinematic experience but due to certain economic things we didn’t quite do that, but we made do," he said.

He's now off on a European tour culminating in a gig in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, where the album was first conceived. But the Barbican audience got to see his vision first, played out in front of their eyes.