I woke up at 5am to get a ticket, traveled across the Atlantic, made all the accommodations and psyched myself up months for what was, and probably will ever be, the most important concert I'll ever attend. Was it the best thing ever? You damn right.
It's going to be pretty tough to put into words the show and experience. It's like when reporters ask baseball players what they are thinking the second after winning the World Series. The players talk a lot of nonsense and say "Oh, man" a lot. That's how I felt after the show.
They went on at 8:15 at played for 2 hours and some change with two encores. It wasn't just a concert, it was an endurance test with me being against the railing and being crushed and standing for eight hours total with four opening acts.
It was the most energetic, crazy, berserk show I ever attended. It was sensory overload. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect sight -- seeing the four members do their thing in their native country. For the self-anointed biggest Blur fan in the U.S. (or maybe just New Jersey), this was the last piece of the puzzle for me.
- She's So High
- Girls And Boys
- Tracy Jacks
- There's No Other Way
- Out Of Time
- Trimm Trabb
- Coffee And TV
- Country House
- Oily Water
- Chemical World
- Sunday Sunday
- Parklife (with Phil Daniels)
- End Of A Century
- To The End
- This Is A Low
- ENCORE: Popscene
- Song 2
- SECOND ENCORE: Death Of A Party
- For Tomorrow
- The Universal
I have to hand it to my man, Damon. I think he finally acknowledges that deep down in his core, he is a rock star and showman. He might have created a cartoon band, compose film scores, write an opera and run a world music label, but the guy was born to jump around like a mad man, scream, knock crap over, stage dive, crowd surf, throw water into the crowd and just say any crazy thing that's on his mind. I do admit, I miss that side of guy. We saw a hint of it during The Good, The Bad and The Queen, but Damon Albarn is the most charismatic and talent musician that emerged from 90s British. There's no other performer who can control 55,000 at his command and make a show into more than spectacle.
It really doesn't seem that long ago since the last Blur tour. It does seem a long time since Graham Coxon graced the stage. It was his presence that makes Blur in 2009 the big deal that it is. He was quoted in the official program that he wanted the history of Blur to end on a positive note ... if this is the end. I don't think it is.
I took the left side of the stage just so I can see how Graham did. I think when he fell to floor, did a back-flip and continued to play, that it was a sign that he's glad he's back. In fact, all four of them said things to one another during the whole show --cracking smiles and having a good time. Sure, these shows are making them a mint, but it's the best feeling to see that they are enjoying being back together and not just cashing in. Graham said the other today in the London papers that the band is sounding the best ever. No argument here.
Granted, I never saw them back at the height in the 90s, but now that they are seasoned musicians and off the hard drugs, this is Blur at their finest. Every song resonated with precision and played with amazing energy. "Girls and Boys" made people nuts. Tender almost made me cry because it was so beautifully done, with the crowd taking over the chorus towards the end. "Coffee + TV" had such depth when it's played live. It's a simple song that breathes with truth and heartache and I'm going sound like a little girl, but it did move me.
Obviously, songs like Popscene, Parklife, Sunday Sunday and Song 2 made everybody loose control. I'm going to remember songs like For Tomorrow, End of the Century, This Is A Low, Tender, The Universal and To The End. The songs that are lyrical and musically full. I'm a different guy from the kid who listen to them in college. So different songs will resonated with you at different times in your life.
These two shows at London Hyde Park were the official "reunion" shows. Their small venue shows, Glastonbury headlining slot and Brixton Academy invite only show were the warms ups for these two shows. As Damon said when he got on stage, "So this was the first show announced." I don't truly categorize this at the reunion, even though Graham is back and looks absolutely, no b.s. happy as hell. I'm thinking the Blur of 2009 is a relaunching of the Blur brand. You have the original parts playing all the songs you love, new website, a Greatest Hits compilation that you don't need, and most importantly, merchandising. Where the real money from the shows are made.
I was okay if the band called it a day. Not every band has be the Rolling Stones. I had my full of Blur in live form, I've met all the members of the band, have pictures with them, autographs, all their singles and rarities, so I'm good to move on. So when the shows were announced, I was like, "Okay, I hope this is not one of those cashing on nostalgia" deals.
The reason to come the show rather then "Duh, it's Blur" was the setting and crowd. I wasn't going to wait for them to come to the U.S. American crowds and British crowds are two different universes. It's the closest thing I'll come to see a proper European festival -- just without the mud. The weather was perfect. The sun was setting at the perfect time for when they played "Out of Time" from Think Tank, so Graham had to play guitar on something he didn't write. Awkward!
Just once, I wanted to be among that chaos that happens at these massive U.K. shows. Yes, I got what expected. Mass hysteria. All I hoped for was no injuries and lost property. I came out with what I came in with, plus T-shirts, posters, buttons, books and beer coasters. I left the show utterly exhausted. My feet were killing me being I got there at doors and stood for nearly 8 hours. When I walked back to my hotel (the best decision was to get a hotel within a 20 minute walk of the show), I smelled of sweat, suntan lotion and hard apple cider. Hmmm, that's when you know you had a good time.
In all, Blur's performance solidifies them as one of the icons of British music. It's not the scene they created, it's the music they've crafted that puts them in the class with The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Jam, The Smiths and Joy Division/New Order. It's music that defined their time and a certain anti-establishment ideology. The debate will rage on with Blur's legacy. For me, it's just music that speaks to me. Seeing them again with all the pomp and circumstance in London is something that won't be equaled with any other band.
There's a downside to this experience. Yes, I knew fully well that by being against the rail at the most eagerly anticipated show of 2009 was going to test me. It felt like a sumo wrestler was sitting on my abdomen for 2 hours. At various times, I was punched in the kidneys, cracked over the head, scratched and crushed like a can of tomatoes. In the end, I held my ground with my new friends I met at the show and live to tell the tale.
Maybe it was a little more unpleasant than I expected. Damon did make an announcement that people in the front are being dangerous. He said something along the lines through his megaphone "People are having a bit too much fun". In front of me was an endless parade of drunk hooligans and little girls who couldn't take the pressure. Some even got dragged out without their pants or skirts. I even saw a 6-year old boy get pulled out. That's not right.
I never got a sense of the massive crowd in attendance until the show was over and I could turn around freely. Looking at the piles of beer and cider bottles was an eye opener. Yeah, garbage comes with the territory, but this was a new level of rubbish. There's about a foot of garbage no matter where you turned. You just have to shuffle through it to get out.
Leaving the show ... well ... British are getting a nasty reputations for over-doing it. It was sad. It looked like the plague just swept through and turned everybody into Dawn of the Dead. People were lying in piles over one another, mumbling things. People couldn't walk and were crawling to make their way out. Massive amounts of people were jumping on each other to scale fences. People weren't rowdy, they were just drugged or drunk out of their mind. This is a stark contrast to the day before when I went to Wimbledon. People were dressed nice, very polite, cheering for Serena Williams and everybody had a sense of decorum. So basically I saw the two sides of British society.
I think I've said my peace and hopefully you got a sense of the show and their experience. I do have it good with this blog. It's an added bonus to get down my thoughts after an epic gig like this.
I'll talk about the openers in another post. I will say that Florence and the Machine will be the best new artist of 2009. She is a wonder to behold. The pictures I have of her at Hop Farm on Saturday are incredible. And I'm sure you want to know what I felt about the new Vampire Weekend songs they debuted. Oh boy!
As a side note ... Vote Dave!
In case you were wondering, no. I didn't say "Hi" to Damon after the show. (The story about me and D, so long ago)