Creative Common, Bristol | September 7th
The penultimate leg of the Africa Express jaunt around the UK stops off at Bristol’s Creative Common tonight, and Crack is one of the lucky ones to step into the Big Top. Located just around the corner from Temple Meads railway station, where earlier in the day Africa Express, led by Damon Albarn, had arrived in their own specially charted train. The collective of nearly a hundred musicians had been scaling the country, rehearsing en route to that evening’s performance, launching spontaneous collaborations, many of which we’d see tonight.
Before the action began at the main event, Crack headed to The Canteen in Stokes Croft for a strongly rumoured ‘pop up’ gig from members of Africa Express. Sure enough, at around 5pm Afel Bocum eased into life before being unexpectedly joined on bass by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, a massive treat for a quickly growing crowd who witnessed a true legend in his element. After a few organic lagers, Crack shuffles over the Creative Common and is greeted.
While Albarn is undoubtedly head of proceedings, he keeps himself at a healthy distance for much of the show while a host of Western guests including Gruff Rhys, Lucy Rose, Kano and Nick Zinner provide the focal points to a background of organic African creations. Amadou, flying solo from his singing partner Miriam, also shows serious axe skills throughout extended jams. Albarn comes to the fore occasionally, performing vocals on a handful of tracks including recent Gorillaz hit Melancholy Hill.
Topping off the show comes an extended version of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, in which our old friend John Paul Jones swaps his bass for a mandolin. It proved an appropriately iconic end to this unique performance, an opportunity to witness an array of remarkable musicianship you would simply never expect to roll into your home town.
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Words: T. C. Flanagan
Photos: Duchess Photographic