On Sunday night I was lucky enough to go to the closing concert of the London 2012 olympics. Not the one in the stadium, but the one on Hyde park. The one where Blur played their possibly last ever gig.
For me, the day started about mid afternoon with New Order. Their gig was good, but took a little while to get going. It began with a downbeat, Joy Division flavour. The brooding, introspective music perhaps at odds with the sunny afternoon. They got into the groove with their up tempo dance numbers, rolling out the favourites, ‘Blue Monday’ etc. I have to say, they didn’t exactly light up the stage to start with, but grew in presence as their gig progressed.
So from New Order, next came the Specials. They showed a lot more energy, bouncing around the stage, getting the crowd going. Ska music has to be the easiest in the world to dance to, even the classic ‘dad dancing at a wedding’ dance is perfectly acceptable, probably even encouraged. It was great music to be leaping around to on a Sunday, with the sun slanting through the trees in a central London park.
And then came Blur. Around a 2 hour set, starting in the light and playing through into the darkness. The atmosphere was electric right from the start. Looking round, it was hard to gauge just how many people were in the sea of fans (80,000 I heard afterwards). It was like a happy, sun-kissed tide of 20 and 30-somethings reliving the naughties and Britpop.
I was on a mini trip down memory lane, recalling Blur songs I hadn’t listened to for about 10 years, much the same as a lot of the crowd I imagine. Tunes like ‘Coffee and TV’ and ‘Beetlebum’ were great to hear. As were expected crowd pleasers, ‘Song 2’ and ‘Parklife’. The standout was ‘Tender’. A beautiful, beautiful track for live gigs, prompting 80,000 people to sing along as soon as the first few chords started.
They rounded off the gig with a new track, ‘Under the Westway’, a great showcase of Damon Albarn’s vocal talents, and a beautifully reflective, heartfelt piece. The look on Albarn’s face at the end of the final song of the night, ‘The Universal’ summed it up. He stared deep out into the crowd with shiny eyes, clearly holding back tears. Then thumped a fist to his chest and rose it skyward, no words were needed. A seriously special night.
The end of Blur? Not a chance, they’re just maturing like a fine wine – or a cheese Alex James might say – long may they continue!