BT Live in Hyde Park: Blur
As the crowd waited for what was (and, one supposes, still is) rumoured to be Blur’s last gig on Sunday 12th August, the introduction of the Olympics Closing Ceremony was shown on the huge screen adorning the stage of London’s Hyde Park. The huddled masses watched attentively, cheering for the likes of Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis and happily indulging in the spirit of London community that the pre-recorded presentation so earnestly promoted. Half an hour later, as hearts swelled with pride, the live action from the Olympic Stadium began and it seemed as if for just a moment the real reason thousands of people were waiting in front of the stage had been forgotten. A burst of energy was injected and a huge sing-along ensued as Madness performed Our House in the stadium – and then suddenly Madness vanished, the Olympics were forgotten (or at least put on the back-burner) and the crowd sprung into life and pushed forward as the screen ceased broadcasting the action in Stratford and simply said, “Blur”.
The screen split into halves and parted like curtains to the sides of the stage, revealing Blur’s lead singer Damon Albarn who greeted the audience with a cheeky “Hello!” The opening bars of the band’s brit-pop classic Girls & Boys rang out, Albarn shouted “Are you ready?!”, the crowd surged and screamed something to theeaffect of “Yes indeed we are!” and the band exploded into action.
A Parklife-heavy start to the set continued with London Loves, Tracey Jacks and a brilliantly raucous rendition of Jubilee. The Graham Coxon-led Coffee and TV was a notable highlight, the crowd singing along rapturously.
Albarn’s showmanship was cranked up to full for the entire two-hour set and there was no better example than during Country House in which he gleefully got up close and personal with audience members and belted the chorus into their faces.
If Albarn was intent on being the most energetic performer of the night he was faced with some competition in Coxon’s thrashing and rolling about. Strangling and smashing ferocious distorted stutters and effects-laden roars out of his guitar for 13s Trimm Trabb and Caramel (easily the highlights of the set) he injected a red-hot shot of adrenaline into the songs.
The band were augmented by back-up singers and brass players for some of their songs which fleshed out their sound nicely, not to mention guest appearances by Phil Daniels and Harry Enfield as Parklife’s narrator and tea-lady respectively.
So brimming with energy and so varied was their set, which covered the breadth of their catalogue, that the show was at a close all too soon and it was hard to believe that over two hours had flown by. As part of their encore they played Under the Westway, one of their two excellent new songs, which Albarn introduced by explaining that the song had been composed with that very moment in mind; playing what could be their last show at the closing of the Olympics. Clearly an emotional moment for audience and band alike (bassist Alex James had tweeted earlier in the day that he had cried while the band practiced the song at soundcheck) though it was the band’s final song, The Universal that really tugged at the heart-strings as Albarn gazed out at the sea of people, blinking back tears before waving farewell.
A truly phenomenal performance, if it does turn out to be their last at least they can say they went out on a high.
Listen to The Universal by Blur here: