thu 16/08/2018

Blur, Hyde Park | reviews, news & interviews

Blur, Hyde Park

Blur, Hyde Park

Britpop’s finest bring down the curtain on a glorious summer – and their own career?

Blur: was this their final hurrah?

Even as London partied, the talk was already about legacy. And as Blur took the stage on a Best of British bill that impressively included New Order and The Specials, the open secret that this may have been their last ever gig – “certainly in this country, for a long, long time” – gave a chance to assess the question of what the legacy might be of the band that unquestionably inspired a generation.

Unlike the band’s reunion tour of 2009, which climaxed with a similar Hyde Park homecoming show, there was little talk between songs nor room for sentiment. Damon Albarn admirably stayed true to his word, making sure that this was a party for London. There was no mention of whether or not Blur would be back anytime soon, although when Albarn left the stage at the end, straight-faced and tight-lipped, clutching a Union flag under his arm, there was a definite sense of finality. The last song was “The Universal” and as the 80,000-strong crowd sang “It really, really, really could happen” there was a sense of the wonder that has captured these islands in the last couple of weeks. “No one here is alone…” Damon crooned and the original ironic intent faded from memory.

Albarn’s introduction made it clear that this was a song written for the occasio

Two hours earlier, the set kicked off with four songs in a row from the Parklife album that catapulted the band to mainstream success. “Girls and Boys” is a raucous disco stomp that sounded as fresh as ever; “London Loves”, despite its dark, Martin Amis-inspired lyric, went down a storm; “Jubilee” – nothing to do with events earlier in the summer – was another that got the predominantly 30something crowd pogoing like it’s 1994; “Tracy Jacks” rounded off the quartet with a tale of the quintessentially English eccentricity at which the band always excelled.

After this, there was something as close as Blur could get to a mid-set lull. Their late-career material was dark and interesting. “Beetlebum” and “Caramel”, oblique songs about heroin, and “No Distance Left to Run”, about Albarn’s relationship breakdown with former girlfriend Justine Frischmann, are all finely crafted works, but not exactly crowd-pleasers for an end-of-Olympics bash. Similarly, the lack of crowd enthusiasm for early gems like “Popscene”, “Colin Zeal” and “Advert” betrayed the reality that this was a general rather than specific audience.

And for a brief while it seemed as if Blur’s legacy might rest on populist anthems with a slight lack of substance. “Country House” has always been too clever for its own good, and Graham Coxon still looks like he plays it through gritted teeth, understandable given the alcoholism and nervous breakdowns that the song’s silly-season connotations led to. Similarly, “Song 2” was two minutes of awesome, unabashed fun, but it hardly puts Blur in the position they so obviously aspire to. This is a band who at the peak of their powers could lay a genuine claim to being not only one of Britain’s best-loved groups, but also one of the best.

The very fact they are here, credibility intact, at such a remove from their heyday, says a lot. It has been commented that new single “Under the Westway” is like The Beatles releasing a song in 1983 and still sounding as good as, if not better, than ever. Albarn’s introduction made it clear that this was a song written for the occasion – “for you” – and the lyric is a masterpiece of social commentary underpinned by an emotional attachment to the country.

The wave of national feeling now sweeping the UK is something Albarn has always tapped into, as a majestic version of “This Is a Low” here proved. Coxon’s guitar solo squealed out into the London sky. And as the set tumbled toward a close, we realised that these are the songs that will form Blur’s legacy. The recent boxset release of 21 years of material proves the depth and breadth of the Blur back catalogue. There was a touching cameo for early B-side “Young and Lovely”, a lost classic that Albarn dedicated to “our beautiful children”. But the songs people will be singing in another 21 years are the ones they saved for the end.

“Tender” is Blur’s “Hey Jude”. After the 2009 reunion tour and the legendary Glastonbury moment when Damon broke down in tears and the crowd sang long into the night, it has become tradition at Blur gigs for the crowd to sing Graham’s part – “Oh my baby, oh my baby, oh my, oh why”. It matches Paul McCartney’s “nananananana” for both simplicity and emotion, and Damon is still able to sing it without disappointing his audience.

In fact, by the time we reach Blur’s “lalalalalalas” – on the classic London song “For Tomorrow” – this classic British band have once again reminded us of why they deserve such a platform, outside of the Olympic Stadium ceremony but very much in our hearts. If the thousands of elated punters heading for late-night tube stations were anything to go by, this is a band whose legacy in the pantheon of greats is more than secure.

  • Dylan Moore’s England, Damon Albarn and the Art of Melancholy is forthcoming from Parthian Books in 2013
When Albarn left the stage at the end, straight-faced and tight-lipped, clutching a Union flag under his arm, there was a definite sense of finality

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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Your article captures what should have been such a momentous occasion but misses a key ingredient that botched up last night's recipe for success ... the good awful sound ... i can't help but think a dvd will be released with major sound editing and i will rewatch last night's events 'wishing' i had been there ...

Not sure where you you felt the lack of enthusiasm for Popscene, Colin Zeal but down the front the electric atmosphere never stopped, they proved they are still one of the greatest bands in this county. An amazing night and going on this performance I hope it wasn't their last.

awful sound ruined my evening

Why haven't you mentioned the terrible sound and the whole crowd shouting "turn it up" and all the early leavers?

very disappointing....the sound where we were was dreadful. Ruined what should have been the highlight of my summer!

The sound was waaaay too quiet - all I could hear for large parts of the set were drunken nitwits beerily bawling "Tender" at the tops of their voices, whether or not the song was being played at the time. Having said that, the stage set was great and the band played brilliantly. And the photo you've used must have been taken on their last tour because it certainly wasn't taken last night.

Strange to hear other's comments on sound - we were towards the back and said the whole way through that the sound was amazing, so maybe only a certain area was bad. Agree that we saw loads of people, including ourselves, going mad over old favourites like Colin Zeal and Popscene. An amazing night and set - very emotional!

We were down near the front, Blur on fire. What a shame, it seems like it was poor at the back.

Up the front the sound was dandy. My two kids loved it and I was swept back to my uni days. Blur are on a par with the Beatles, we should be justly proud of them.

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