Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tender is the Night - Blur at Hyde Park

This was my review of Blur's brilliant show at Hyde Park just over a month or so ago for Sydney's the Brag.

On a 24-hour stop over in London you could take in the Tate, ride the Eye and hope to the highlight is singing a Beatles song in Trafalgar Square for a mobile phone ad, That would be pretty British. Alternatively, you could time it perfectly and in one sunny London day drink Pimms at Wimbledon with Andy Murray in the semi-final before hitting Hyde Park to experience motherfucking Blur live with 60,000 other frothing revellers.

Tickets to Summer’s most hotly anticipated concert, acquired via a Facebook plea and purchased at retail price, boasted a mini festival line-up that included Deerhoof, Florence & the Machine, Amadou and Mariam and Vampire Weekend to boot – a line-up that felt like the many facets of Blur from the manic indie-guitar to moments of folk and Afro-beat.
Missing Deerhoof and Florence and the Machine I arrive for Amadou and Mariam, grab two beers and work my way to 20 metres from the barrier. From Mali, the duo are backed by a band and dancers that blend afro-beat rhythms with more modern dance beats and salt of the earth soul with surf guitar. The couple, both blind are cool and subdued, so much so I can’t help but feel they’d be more lively if they could witness the 60 thousand pasty-white bodies burning in the sun, trying to get their African booty-shake on.

Vampire Weekend’s Graceland-inspired Afro-beat feels diluted in comparison but the frat boy infused indie-cool makes up for it. Beginning to get suitably drunk, the crowd relish in their rollicking sing-a-long. It’s a right knees-up, wailing ‘Blake’s Got A New Face’ in call and response, air-punching to ‘A-Punk’s’ ‘hey, hey hey heys!’ and no one in the crowd ‘gives a fuck about an Oxford comma’. A riotous bottle fight breaks out with green plastic-to-look-like-glass bottles pinball-bounce across the mosh, striking multiple skulls and splattering punters in stray Tuborg, but it’s all in good fun. ‘Let’s get rowdy!’ shouts singer Ezra Koenig as he feels the audience’s focus slip away. However it returns quickly to the band and they’re brilliant, even managing a few exciting new tracks to prove they aren’t one trick ponies.
As speakers are stacked and mics set up anticipation grows and my dance space becomes cramped, everyone wants in.

Alex then Graham, Dave then Damon take the stage as a massive surge pushes me forward and a cheer rings out across ol’ London Town. They begin how it all did, with first single ‘She’s So High’. ‘Girls and Boys’ next heralds a chorus of confused lyrics. What was the order again, ‘Girls/Boys/Boys/Girls/Girls’? And as we all sing ‘Love in the 90s’ it’s no longer with live-in-the-moment sexual hedonism but rather nostalgia for our youth as we mosh out to regain a little bit of it. ‘There’s No Other Way’ is shouty fun too while ‘Beetlebum’ brings another, yet slower, chorus line. The Coxon-sung ‘Coffee and TV’ that shed light on his future solo direction, while also making an entire country’s youth re-think their hot beverage choice, remains the perfect slacker anthem.

Whether it’s a football chant or a Britpop chorus, England loves a good drunken choral session and while previous songs state it, it’s no more evident than midway through the night for ‘Tender’. To the warm glow of sunset it is the first moment I get a chill up my spine. It begins with Damon on acoustic guitar and builds to all of us, 60 thousand people strong singing ‘C’mon, C’mon, C’mon get through it, C’mon, C’mon, C’mon love’s the greatest thing’. The band drop away and watch their city take over before – we thrive on it. Joining us again, together we build it even higher than before, simple yet epic.

Having already played the night before here and the weekend prior at Glastonbury plus countless practice sessions, they are tight, consummate professionals while still letting loose. Damon is jumping all over the stage and leaning into the crowd, gold tooth grinning in the sun. Graham is lick-focused over his guitar, rocking out. Dave, now a lawyer is slightly more subdued as Alex looks out smiling over his cheese-makers’ gut.

Classic ‘Country House’ is wheeled out to the fans’ joy even though it had fallen off the band’s setlist by 2002 and to the band, an example that time heals wounds. A few songs later the band is joined by Phil Daniels, he of the raucous diatribe from ‘Parklife’. The crowd kick off before a note is struck. They know what’s coming. To experience a song so familiar to my generation in the park it was written about is amazing. As Damon told London’s Time Out, ‘You don’t get a chance to do that very often in life.’ We all pogo and throw our shit around, chanting like dickheads.
There are obvious holes when they leave the stage at the end of the set with ‘This is a Low’. In these days of compulsory encores no one is fooled. The crowd fill the quiet by singing ‘Tender’ before the band come back out for ‘Popscene’, ‘Advert’ and of course the punk rock of ‘Song 2’, an obvious choice to end on for pseudo-fans but the die-hards know there is at least one or two more still.
Again ‘Tender’ erupts over the warm evening air and the song will never be the same to me again. Damon returns and says a few touching words about the park, the city, the fact this show was the first they announced and it sold out in minutes, and about us. Their second and final encore comes with a message in ‘Death of a Party’, ‘For Tomorrow’ and the sentimentally wonderful ‘The Universal’ as we all sing good-bye, ‘If the days they seem to fall through you, well just let them go’.

Blur have given no hint if they will return with an album, just enjoying these days together. But as the crowd dissipates everyone is still singing ‘Tender’, out the Hyde Park gates, on the Underground, all the way to Liverpool Station and hoping for an album, ‘waiting for the feeling, waiting for that feeling to come’.

1 comment:

  1. I used to be a huge fan of Blur. I would have loved to have seen them live.