Barclaycard Mercury Prize Sessions
Graham Coxon - Live At The Hospital Club, London

Finally we have warm weather back in our lives and with the sun Maximo Park have also returned. Its unclear if these northern songbirds flew south for the winter but wherever they have been hiding it has certainly done them the world of good. Kicking off tonight’s intimate gig at The Hospital club they open with the title track of their highly anticipated new album 'The National Health', a tight, concise single that fits the Maximo Park template perfectly.

Half way through their second new song ‘Hips and Lips’ Paul Smith has already demonstrated the kind of theatrics usually reserved for professional wrestlers or R&B superstars, before unleashing his signature scissor kick during ‘Graffiti’, a song “written in 1932,” he jokes.

'Write This Down' and 'This is What Becomes of the Broken Hearted' are welcomed with open arms by a crowd now fully aware that they are witnessing a band playing to their strengths and delivering “one passionate song after another” as Smith puts it.

Two new additions to MP2012 are the "soft singing" which "I invented" quips Paul before the tender 'Reluctant Love', and a selection of sassy dance moves borrowed from Bryan Ferry, which he puts to good use during 'Take Me Home'.
Saving 'Apply Some Pressure' until last means that the band leave the stage to rapturous applause and cries for more from the excitable crowd.

If Maximo Park “does exactly when it says on the tin,” Graham Coxon is a lot harder to pin down. In his current incarnation Graham has cast himself as the lofi outsider looking in on a society he seems equally appalled and enthralled by. His set tonight comprises entirely of songs from his latest album ‘A+E’.

There's no power pop, no folk, and barely any words from everyone's favorite member of Blur, instead the crowd is hypnotized by swirling repetitive electronics which serve as a back drop to the three guitarists on stage.

Opener 'Advice' comes across like Billy Childish fronting Elastica, and almost tricks people into thinking the next forty-five minutes will be a snotty post brit pop bit of fun. However, any hopes of hearing ‘Freakin’ Out' are soon dashed as the drum machine intro of 'City Hall' pulsates from the stage, Graham shaking off his glasses as he hammers away at his guitar. It’s not long until every head is nodding along in unison to 'The Truth', creeping in with its menacing bass thunder and metronomic synths as Coxon ditches the vocals and leads the band through a mainly instrumental dirge.

“Get back down the M1 'cause we don't like you/ We don't like your accent or your Northampton shoes” spits Graham on 'Running For Your Life’ adding a little dark humor to his snap shot of paranoia and suburban alienation.

The high point of the gig is recent single 'What'll It Take’, which morphs into nihilistic disco as Coxon screams “What’s wrong with me?” for what feels like forever. This is a million miles away from a sunny afternoon in Hyde Park and you get the feeling that Graham is perfectly happy that Phil Daniels is nowhere in sight.

Words by Daniel Wilson
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