A bit of a Blur
Photograph credit: Marcelo Costa
When you’re a kid, you always have ONE band that is yours right? You own every album and single, have your bedroom wall plastered with posters and press clippings – hell, even have your hair cut like one of the members. Well, when I was a kid (and it’s going to be pretty easy to guess my age right now) I had three bands that I couldn’t get enough of (I know, three – I was greedy). The bands in question – Nirvana, The Charlatans and Blur.
After spending years trapped in the shadow of my older siblings record collection (U2, INXS, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, Pop Will Eat Itself, Aztec Camera) I suddenly started to develop a taste of my own. It began with Nirvana. Hearing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on a dreary Sunday afternoon whilst travelling to a Garden Centre with my mother (the memory is still that vivid) my ears were never quite the same again. I grew my hair, developed a stinking attitude problem and started to shut myself in my bedroom; absorbing the wise words of Kurt Cobain from the CD lyric booklets into my tiny impressionable skull. Blur followed closely – ‘There’s No Other Way’ grabbed my attention initially when I saw the video on The Chart Show and remember thinking what an amazing guitar riff it had. That, and the fact that it featured the actress who played Mrs Mclusky from Grange Hill. Genius. The Charlatans – well quite simply, I got into those guys after trying to impress a girl. It worked.
Those are the only three bands that travelled with me from my teenage years to adult life. On a live front – I never got to see Nirvana. I was 14 when Cobain blew his brains out and far too young to witness their raucous live show (well, that’s what my mother told me anyway). The Charlatans, I’ve seen those guys 10 times according to my Songkick profile – though I could have sworn it’s actually closer to 20. After they dabbled with ‘Reggae’ though a few years ago, I vowed never to see them again. My memory of them was already being soured y’see and I didn’t want to add fuel to the fire by watching my once heroes ruin their carrer by performing third rate pap.
Then there was Blur. BLUR. B.L.U.R. The one band from my CD collection that I’ve loved for years and years but have never seen live – not through lack of trying. Round about the time of ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’ and ‘Parklife’ I was far too young to go and see them, even though I begged and begged my older brother to take me to see them at Mile End Stadium in 1995. He never did – the miserable old toad. He tried to make it up to me though by buying tickets to see R.E.M at Milton Keynes Bowl on 29th June ’95. The lineup? R.E.M, Blur, Belly and Magnapop (remember Magnapop? Me neither). Talk about a stunning lineup. Especially for an impressionable 15 year old indie kid. But wait! Remember that other band who were treading the boards in 1995. The lads from Manchester – Oasis? Yes. Well, y’see both myself and my brother were also quite taken with Oasis. As most people were back before everyone found out that they were in fact talentless goons.
Oasis announed that they were to support R.E.M at their show at Huddersfield Stadium on 25th July. I specifically remember my brothers excitement at this and what followed “…but Rich…. the lineup is the same as Milton Keynes, you just need to swap Blur for Oasis”. He was calling the shots here – after all, he DID buy the tickets. So I agree to his plan. We sell the Milton Keynes tickets and commit to the Oasis date.
A few days later, Oasis pulled out of the show. They were replaced by another hugely popular English band.
The Beautiful South.
I’m still reeling about that to this day.
So fast-forward 14 years. Blur have announced that they’re to perform with the original Albarn/Coxon/James/Rowntree lineup for the first time since Coxon’s meltdown in 2003. The location? Hyde Park. Oh. Yes. The nation rejoices. As do I.
As with all big shows, the Hyde Park dates were preceded by a bunch of warm-up dates that saw the reinvigorated four piece play the rock n roll hot-spots of Wolverhampton and Colchester to rapturous response. I was lucky enough to get tickets to their Southend Cliffs Pavillion show which, I still find difficult to talk about – it was just so…. perfect. I’d waited 18 years to see them. That’s a long time, and when they unveiled the double whammy of ‘Girls & Boys’ and ‘Tracy Jacks’ the feeling can only be described as euphoria. They played for two hours. Two perfect hours that were capped off with an epic reading of ‘The Universal’ which brought the entire theatre and indeed, the security staff (probably) to tears.
Blur: ‘The Universal’ @ Southend Cliffs Pavillion 21/06/09
I wanted more. I hated the fact that I couldn’t relive that feeling of joy again. That I’d waited 18 years and it was over in two hours. The Hyde Park Shows were my only hope of salvaging another performance just in case they decided to disband again once the current live commitments were over. I was ticket-less though, of course. I tend to stray away from BIG shows as a) they are normally filled with drunken fools and b) the sound is generally rubbish, but I didn’t really care because this was BLUR. Luckily – a last minute face-value ticket landed on my lap and I was good to go. Thursday 2nd July was a good day folks.
Now, as predicted – the crowd did contain a large sum of forty-somethings drunk out of their mind on Cider and roasting like pigs in the sun. It was an outdoor event after all. Couldn’t really expect anything less. But who am I to moan? After all, my wish had come true – I was seeing Blur for a second time in as many weeks! Barging my way to as near to the front as I possibly could the band emerged to a thunderous response. They’d only been on stage for 30 seconds and you could already seen a tear forming in Damon’s eye. The big softie. And then it hits you – these guys haven’t performed as the original lineup in nearly 10 years yet they can still reach out to such a ridiculous amount of people with such ease and gusto. For 2 hours, it’s 1995 all over again. Cue ‘Girls & Boys’.
Blur: ‘Girls and Boys’ @ Hyde Park, London 02/07/09
With a setlist spanning two encores, ALL of the hits plus a few band favourites (‘Trimm Trabb’ and ‘Death Of A Party’ leaving the Cider swilling drunkards utterly perplexed), Blur had possibly just performed the most important show of their career. From the first announcement that they were to re-form this was the show they were leading up to. The make or break show. What happens next? Judging by the looks the band were giving each other on stage, one can only assume that they will continue on this journey for as long as the general public will have them. Look at Take That. They reformed, let’s face it, for the money – and loved it so much they’re now more successful and universally loved than ever before. My prediction is that Blur will follow suit – just as long as Albarn and Coxon can keep their egos at bay, we might just have them round for a few more years yet. Let’s hope so, as that hit of sheer euphoria that I’ve now felt twice needs to be re-lived over and over and over again.
Setlist: ‘She’s So High’, ‘Girls And Boys’, ‘Tracy Jacks’, ‘There’s No Other Way’, ‘Jubilee’, ‘Badhead’, ‘Beetlebum’, ‘Out Of Time’, ‘Trimm Trabb’, ‘Coffee & TV’, ‘Tender’, ‘Country House’, ‘Oily Water’, ‘Chemical World’, ‘Sunday Sunday’, ‘Parklife’, ‘End Of A Century’, ‘To The End’, ‘This Is A Low’
Encore 1: ‘Popscene’, ‘Advert’, ‘Song 2′
Encore 2: ‘Death Of A Party’, ‘For Tomorrow’, ‘The Universal’.