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Review: Graham Coxon kicks up a storm

By Peter Wilkinson, CNN
updated 12:04 PM EDT, Wed April 25, 2012
Graham Coxon cuts a confident figure onstage. (File photo)
Graham Coxon cuts a confident figure onstage. (File photo)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Graham Coxon serves up cacophony of white noise, but talent shines through
  • With up to four guitars, bass and drums, Coxon is not act for faint-hearted
  • Coxon described by Noel Gallagher as greatest guitarist of his generation

Brighton, England (CNN) -- Graham Coxon is tired. He's wet. But he's standing outside the concert in the rain smoking a cigarette and talking cheerfully to fans after an energetic performance in Brighton.

The long queue of admirers, many from overseas, is testimony to his fame, but if truth were told, most of them just want to meet the lead guitarist from Blur.

And if they were disappointed that Coxon didn't play any songs written during his time in the multi-million-selling Britpop band, the fans don't let on. Well, not much anyway.

What Coxon serves up for most of the concert in the atmospheric beachside Concorde 2 venue is a cacophony of white noise in keeping with the storm lashing in off the ocean outside. With up to four guitars, bass and drums, Coxon is not an act for the faint-hearted.

But melodies do shine through: occasionally on older songs such as "All Over Me" and the finale "Tripping Over," the volume eases for him to show what an interesting voice he has, one that was criminally under-used on the seven Blur studio albums. Coxon's virtuoso musical talent on guitar is also richly on show -- he has been described by Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher as the greatest guitarist of his generation.

Many of the songs are from his new album A&E, which marks a return to a rockier sound than his previous, more acoustic work. Coxon seems in his element as a front man: his between-songs chat is limited to an occasional "cheers" but he seems to be having a scream. Towards the end he lets his hair down by doing his famous back-flip and plays guitar with his teeth and behind his back.

There's no showing for favorites such as "Bittersweet Bundle of Misery," off the most Blur-like album "Happiness in Magazines, and while there are half-hearted calls for Coxon's big Blur hit "Coffee and TV," it's never going to happen. While he will always be defined by that band -- who reform again for the Olympic Games closing concert in August -- Coxon has now produced eight solo albums and is entitled as much as Damon Albarn is to a life after, or even alongside, Blur.

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