Damon Albarn unveils new songs at BBC 6 Music Festival
Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn has given his wistful debut solo album its first live airing at the inaugural BBC 6 Music Festival in Manchester.
Albarn has described the album, titled Everyday Robots, as the most personal of his 25-year career.
On the evidence of Friday's gig, it is also contemplative, nostalgic and unsettling compared with his past work.
Albarn headlined the first day of the festival at the Victoria Warehouse, two months before the album comes out.
Although the record will be released under his name, he said he wanted himself and his backing band to be known as The Heavy Seas.
"This is our first ever gig and it's quite nerve-wracking to be not only playing your first gig but playing it live on radio as well," he told the crowd at the venue and the audience of 6 Music listeners.
"But I suppose I should be used to it after all these years."
Albarn's youth in east London and Essex is the inspiration for some of the songs, such as Hollow Ponds, which recalls the hazy English summer of 1976.'Dark and joyous'
Discussing the album on 6 Music before the concert, he said: "The narrative of it is completely personal.
"Everything happened to me that I sing about on the record - some of it quite dark, some of it quite joyous."
In many songs, he also examines the impact of technology on modern life.
"By going to where I came from, I got a good perspective on a time where there were no telephones apart from the one in your house," he recently told Rolling Stone.
"There were no computers. If you watched a TV show, you had to watch it during the particular moment that it aired. I wanted to ask, 'are we further from ourselves or closer to ourselves because of technology?'"
Albarn's set was peppered with brighter moments such as the jaunty track Mr Tembo, about a baby elephant in Tanzania. "I wrote this song for him and it ended up on the record somehow," the singer said.
His band name is taken from the title of the album's final track, Heavy Seas of Love, which includes vocals from Brian Eno.
The record also features Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes and the Leytonstone City Mission Choir.
The first day of the indoor 6 Music Festival also included sets from bearded Texan band Midlake, riotous Californian rockers Haim, US pop diva Kelis and electronic pioneers The BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
Franz Ferdinand, Jake Bugg, James Blake and The National will play on Saturday.
"We've always had great live moments," BBC 6 Music editor James Stirling said. "But we've never had something truly of our own.
"We really wanted something to celebrate what makes 6 Music unique and we thought a festival would be a good way of doing it."
He added that he would like to make it an annual event.