Carling New Kings, Islington Academy

Every time Coxon walks on stage and picks up a guitar, you know you're in for something special. Never more so than tonight.

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Date: 13 Jan 2006 | By Stephen Ackroyd | Rating: 4
Carling New Kings, Islington Academy

There's no need to refer to Graham Coxon as a "New King". A man who has consistantly been a highlight of everything to come out of the British music scene for the last fifteen years or more, such plaudits seem pretty irrelevant. Still, he's on a bill of "the best of 2005, repackaged for 2006", and the other acts should be very, very worried.

Kano, a last minute replacement for Hard-Fi, doesn't sit on the bill as well as the promoters would have hoped; a grime act alongside a whole raft of indie doesn't always work, and the audience is obviously split down the middle. The fact is, though, Kano is obviously very, very good. His record sales may not put him on a par with Mike Skinner, but the performance certainly does. Wonderfully eclectic and a little bit different, it's at the very least an interesting way to kick things off.

It's slightly odd to see The Magic Numbers in a supporting role (though we'd imagine this is more to do with the filing of the gig for TV than the relative statures of the acts). They've come a long way over the last twelve months, won over fans during the festival season, and become widely acknowledged as the smiliest band in pop.

They certainly have the audience won over; 'Forever Lost' and 'Love's A Game' induce some of the most cringeworthy dance alongs Clickmusic has seen in years, but you can understand why. The vocal harmonies all work live, and despite sounding almost "nice" on record, seem powerful too. The only problem; by the time the end of the set comes along, complete with the double header of 'Love Me Like You' and 'Mornings Eleven', it's all just a bit too happy.

Every time Coxon walks on stage and picks up a guitar, you know you're in for something special. Never more so than tonight, however. New album 'Love Travels At Illegal Speeds' is on the horizon, and it's finally time for some of the new songs to get a live airing, with a liberal sprinkling of 'Happiness In Magazines' included for good measure.

'Bittersweet Bundle Of Misery' and 'Spectacular' get the crowd going, but once the new material starts it's all systems go. 'Standing On My Own Again' sounds like a classic before it's even got a release, while 'Don't Let Your Man Know' is the embodiment of the new solo Graham; punk, fast paced and infectious as hell.

It's not until the end that it becomes painfully obvious just how good the man is. 'I Can't Look At Your Skin' ranks up there with the catchiest numbers in the Coxon arsenal, with a chorus that's almost criminally good. It almost overshadows 'Freakin' Out', itself one of the best live tracks in recent memory, but it's set closer 'Gimme Some Love' that firmly sets the agenda for 2006. Loud, quick and brattish to the last, it's the kind of song that gives The Ramones back catalogue a bloody nose and still has time for a sugar rush at the end.

There's no doubting Blur miss their guitar hero, but he's certainly not suffering for it. In the best shape of his career, and with his best album to date in the bag, anyone playing the same stage as Graham Coxon this year better beware; they're going to be blown away.