Graham Coxon, University, Newcastle

University, Newcastle

In a period when so many budding X-Factor types seem as if they will do anything for fame, Graham Coxon has often done the opposite. Traumatised by his former band Blur's mega-success with Parklife, Coxon's various extreme reactions to the spotlight included punching a record company executive and attempting to jump out of a window.

However, since first going solo and later leaving Blur, Coxon has scaled things down to the point where his music can express his love of Buzzcocks, John Otway and the Ramones. He's exactly where he wants to be: popular enough to matter but not to the point where it gets silly. However, it's notable that after six solo albums, the size of venues he's playing has suddenly got a lot bigger. This is perhaps a result of Love Travels at Illegal Speeds, an album on which Coxon appears to have stopped fighting his past and embraced the kind of hooks he brought to Blur's Parklife. Following on from 2004's excellent Happiness in Magazines, the guitarist now has a palette of songs to rival his former outfit. He is also curiously ageless.

Attracting a crowd of older Britpop heads and younger locals, the man (surprisingly, without his trademark spectacles) could pass for a student. The same applies to his music, which is 1977 retro but delivered with a vibrancy that could strip paint as well as cobwebs.

No longer uptight on stage, he is relaxed enough to enjoy banter with his bandmates and deliver a line like "Happiness, I've found you / How sweet you are" with palpable sincerity.

He plays long into the night, and finally leaves the stage to chants of "Coxon! Coxon!" The thought will probably fill him with renewed dread, but, for all the right reasons, Graham Coxon is edging ever closer to being famous all over again.

· At Glasgow Garage tonight. Box office: 0141-332 1120. Then touring.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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