Graham Coxon's recent work might have been somewhat overshadowed by the facts and rumours surrounding Blur's ongoing reunion, but that shouldn't detract from the quality of his eighth solo album, A+E. Quite a departure from his previous record — the reflective, folky The Spinning Top — it's loud, angular, abrasive and a lot of fun.
Tonight, he's brought his at-times-verging-on-heavy-metal sound to The Hospital Club in Covent Garden, playing to an audience of competition winners at a Mercury Prize Sessions gig.
Usually the preserve of members and fancy private events, it's nice to be able to see inside this venue; the basement of the old St Pauls Hospital (built in 1749) has been converted into a full-on studio, and it's where this evening's gig is being recorded.
Unlike many of London's venues it's a somewhat sterile space, with no odd stains or smelly toilets. The pulsing, camera-friendly lights behind Coxon bring some needed depth to the staging, and the outstanding acoustics counterbalance the stark surroundings, making sure the subtleties of Coxon's new material don't get lost beneath the exciting riffs and elaborate guitar work.
True to form, Coxon doesn't strike the most imposing figure on stage. Although animated and assured, he keeps the chat short, largely allowing the dark, menacing guitars to capture the crowd's attention.
During this short, powerful performance, he creates a full-on sound that could easily fill a much bigger space. Finishing up with new single Ooh Yeh Yeh and a proper guitar solo, he departs in a haze of looped guitars and ringing ears, proving that he's still much more than 'just that bloke from Blur'.
Graham Coxon's next London gig is at Wembley Arena on 7 September, supporting Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. Future Mercury Prize Sessions will be announced online.