damon2

Almost 10 years after they last performed as a four piece Blur announced their first two tiny reunion gigs via an unheralded email sent out to anyone subscribed to their mailing list. Inevitably they sold out in minutes, leaving many fans disappointed that getting ticket owed more to luck than dedication (personally I didn’t even know I was on the Blur mailing list!)

Since then more “secret” gigs have come and gone, with Rough Trade Records, Brixton Academy and Southend squeezed in between the original nostalgic double header of The East Anglian Railway Museum where they made their debut in 1988, and this show in the Student Union of Coxon, James, and Albarn’s old college, Goldsmiths.

And so at 7pm a queue snaked into Goldsmith’s Tienanmen building (the Winnie Mandela block was double booked) as a couple of hundred lucky people eagerly held out their arms for the blue plastic Blur wrist bands.  Inside the bar was five deep and by half past the beer taps were dry, leaving the NME’s reviewer to report that many were forced to drink bottled cider or spirits.  Quite how 200 thirty-something Blur fans out-drunk the student unions regular clientele remains unanswered?
According to the press a smattering of celebs were also in attendance including Jude Law, David Walliams melting in a suit, and Emma Watson moshing.  More impressively, the not remotely famous but very talented Pictish Trail was not only in the crowd, but after the gig caught two trains and two buses to take him back to Anstruther, Scotland by daybreak.  Now thats dedication! Check out his myspace here.

Even as someone who only “quite likes” Blur, the buzz of anticipation as 8pm approached was electrifying.  If asked I’d have denied taking Oasis’s side in the great BritPop war of 95, I’d have glossed over posting a track on this blog called “Damon Albarn is a pompous c**t” and I certainly wouldnt have mentioned that it was impossible for this gig to better the night at the Elephant & Castle Coronet when Oasis came on to the strains of “Youll Never Walk Alone” directly after Liverpool won their 5th European Cup.  My attitude to Blur has always been coloured by my terrible class chip, so while I made and enjoyed a Blur compilation, its title was “Mockney – The best of Blur“.  What I could never deny though was just how bloody talented Albarn is, not to mention having seen him with The Good, The Bad & The Queen what a great frontman he is. Not to mention his jaw droppingly good record label and shop! I still agree with that song title though.

Alex James has talked about how reforming felt “a bit like putting the Blues Brothers back together.  We had to break Rowntree out of law school and I’m smelling cheese somewhere in Oxfordshire“.  As they arrive to predictable hysteria its clear the years have been kind both musically and physically.  Albarn bounces on his toes like a boxer ready for the fight, his face pretty much as it always was, Coxon seemingly improved by age, and James who’s clearly cut back on the cheese for the reunion spent much of the night coolly posing on top of his monitor.

I remember this place being kind of cavernous, and running around like an excited kid when there was music on.
It seems a lot smaller now.
(Youtube)

So said Damon after starting with a storming version of “She’s So High“, the first track from their first album.  Gazing out in disbelief at the room described by The FT as a dark, foetid place that resembled the hold of a particularly dismal passenger ship he looked genuinely shocked to be there.  Barely a second passed however between finishing his sentence and the band setting off the first pogoing session of the night with “Girls & Boys” unmistakable opening refrain.

SETLIST (with links to Youtube footage where available)b0018861_8493857
‘She’s So High’
‘Girls And Boys’ (Snippet)
‘Tracy Jacks’ (Youtube)
‘There’s No Other Way’ (Youtube)
‘Jubilee’
‘Bad Head’
‘Beetlebum’ (Youtube / YouTube2 / Youtube start)
‘Out Of Time’
‘Trimm Trabb’
‘Coffee And TV’ (Youtube / Brief clip good quality
‘Tender’ – (YouTube / YouTube2 / YT3 Brief clip but great quality)
‘Country House’ (YouTube / YT2 Brief good quality)
‘Oily Water’ (Youtube)
‘Chemical World’
‘Sunday Sunday’
‘Parklife’
‘End Of A Century’ (Youtube)
‘To The End’ (Youtube)
‘This Is A Low’ (Youtube)
ENCORE:
‘Popscene’
‘Advert’
‘Song 2’ (Youtube – 1 min in)
‘For Tomorrow’ (Youtube)
‘The Universal’ – (Youtube)

Other vids: Damon Crowd surfing / Damon talking about size of venue

Tracy Jacks“, “Jubilee” and “Bad Head” followed from their commercial highpoint “Parklife“, sandwiched around “Theres No Other Way“, a tune which always has me thinking “oh I thought that was the Charlatans/Inspiral Carpets (insert various “baggy” bands)..?”  After “Tracy Jacks” Albarn beaming from ear to ear warned the over excited mass that they “should probably pace yourselves ’cos there’s a long way to go”.  He wasnt joking… there were 24 tracks to come over the course of almost two hours.

Its probably heresy to say it but I always preferred their later work, the sound of Blur imploding, of creative tensions, emotional breakups, and the influence of Albarn’s love for other cultures. “Beetlebum” with its twin inspirations of Heroin and the Fab Four was immense, while “Tender” featured the crowd and Damon singing acapella.
Out Of Time“, the bands first single without Graham Coxon is especially beautiful, although to Coxon’s credit he more than compensated for the missing Morrocan orchestra by adding his own subtle “shivering arcs of feedback”.  Alburn meanwhile plucked out the solo on a small acoustic guitar.  Absolutely beautiful! Had they segued into “No Distance Left To Run“, the heartbreaking tale of Damon’s split with Elastica’s Justin Friechmann I would have had to break for a good interval blub.

Lily Allen recently apologised for her dad splitting up the band (Graham twittered her back saying hey! I’ m sure you’re dad didn’t do too much damage, dear! x”), but what stands out about “Country House” shorn of its “wacky” Keith Allen video is its actually a good song.  Moved by the audiences response Albarn declared the gig as “…truly what it used to be like“.

Further testing the energy reserves of the audience, a muscular “Parklife” came next setting off what the Times described as a “Proustian avalanche measured out in the finger-jabbing zeal“.  All I know is I’d headed to the bar for something to ease the unbearable heat, and upon my return the chaos set off by “Parklife” ensured most of the pint ended up down my already soaked t-shirt.  This was by far the sweatiest gig I’ve been to in years.  Initially lines of sweat marked their path down the wall and beam directly above the stage, but by “Parklife” perspiration literally dripped from the ceiling like salty rain.

I didn’t think we’d ever do this kind of gig again” Said Albarn “I’m pleased we have, thanks for coming.

goldwide

The Telegraph summed the night up perfectly:

Over the next two weeks the reformed Blur will play to around 500,000 people at Glastonbury and in Hyde Park. So to see them in a pokey room of a few hundred people was a chance to see if the magic – musical and personal – was back.

Well, it was. This was a night of pure joy.  It was the little looks between them, the smiles, the sweat. We could see the whites of their eyes.

Blur Website
Other reviews:
The Telegraph loved it so much they reviewed it twice – here and here
The Guardian had me looking up the word crepuscular with their five star review
The NME were forced to drink bottled cider
The Times celebrates 5 stars of imperishable magnificence.
R Music sang church hymns for the britpop generation
The Mirror’s showbiz column were busy celeb spotting.. ooo Emma Watson moshing
The Financial Times gave it five stars.

Listen:
Blur – “Out Of Time” (MP3)
Blur – “Tender (Cornelius remix)” (MP3)
Blur – “To The End” (MP3) – Little Boots YouTube cover here too (not sure she understands the song)
Damon Albarn – “I Need A Gun” (MP3)

Music Is Your Radar” – Compilation of tracks from Damon’s superb label, Honest Jon’sDownload ZIP

Visit here to download “Parkspliced” a 2004 Blur bootleg mashup album (can’t vouch for its quality though)

Look:
崚楠 took some brilliant pictures of the night on flickr

Watch:
Interview with Blur discussing the reunion
BBC Video about Blur reforming & looking ahead to Glasto performance
Blur on Rock Profiles – yes Im working class, rub a dub dub, apples and pairs, gor blimey

Privacy Preference Center