Blur in Sydney or: Why the long, frustrating wait for a Blur tour of Australia was worth it.
Six long years after their first reunion gigs, Blur – all four of the classic line-up no less – have finally made it to Australia. In the time between that triumphant, redemptive run of shows during the European summer of 2009 and now, fans at this end of the world have had their hopes raised and dashed in a multitude of ways, including their appearance at the 2014 Big Day Out being cancelled just a month before they were due to arrive. On top of that, there’s been multiple times where it looked like one of the most-awaited reunions of recent times had petered out before it got here, due to the various commitments each member has to their lives outside of the band (see: solo careers, cheese-making, working as a lawyer). There were times when it seemed like the closest we would get to seeing the Blur reunion was via YouTube clips and streams from festivals overseas.
Like The Stones Roses and Pulp tours of recent years, to see a band before your own eyes who are so familiar yet you’ve only seen, until now, in videos and pictures, is a quite surreal. They may look a little older (some more than others) but bloody hell, it’s Blur!
As they crank out opener and comeback single ‘Go Out’, all of the key characteristics of the group – Graham Coxon’s abrasive guitar lines, Alex James’ cheeky nonchalance and swaggering bass, Dave Rowntree’s steady beats and Damon Albarn’s sneering delivery – all come to the fore.
Six songs from The Magic Whip feature throughout the 18-track main set. Of those, the aforementioned ‘Go Out’, along with ‘Lonesome Street’ and ‘Ong Ong’ get the best reaction. Although probably lost on a lot of the crowd who are out for a bit of a nostalgic knees-up, the slower numbers ‘Ghost Ship’, ‘Thought I Was A Spaceman’ and ‘Pyongyang’ do well to showcase another side to the band, a slinky, exotic side that has made the new record one of the great releases of the year so far.
The new songs are scattered among a slew of classics from throughout Blur’s original decade. Far from being simply a greatest hits set, great renditions of deeper cuts like as Parklife’s ‘Badhead’ and ‘Trouble in the Message Centre’ are a pleasant surprise. Of the hits, most of the main ones get an outing, with a few notable exceptions (‘Country House’, ‘Popscene’, ‘Charmless Man’, ‘End Of the Century’ for example). Hearing Graham Coxon playing the guitar live is an exhilarating experience. He wrings every last sound out of his instrument in ‘Beetlebum’ and ‘Coffee & TV’. These two tracks are the standouts of the show.
Of course, ‘Parklife’, ‘Song 2’ and ‘Tender’ are all greeted with mass singalongs. Even though these songs have been heard ad nauseam in various forms over the years, it’s quite easy to get swept up in the joy of hearing them played live for the first time. The main set closes with two more Parklife standouts: ‘To The End’ and ‘This Is A Low’. The former oozes European sophistication while the latter’s forlorn drama benefits from yet another stellar Coxon guitar attack. For the encore, they unexpectedly but brilliantly open with a ramshackle version of The Great Escape’s underrated third single ‘Stereotypes’. A stomping ‘Girls & Boys’ gets things back on track before the one-two punch of ‘For Tomorrow’ and ‘The Universal’ finish things on an optimistic, celebratory high.
Understandably, there was always going to be songs that weren’t played that one would have liked to have heard but after so long waiting and hoping for a Blur tour, just the fact that they’ve even made here it is something worth celebrating. The fact that they’ve returned in such a spectacular way makes this show one that will be remembered for a long time. If this tour is Blur’s way of apologising for taking so long to get here, apology accepted. With their immediate future again uncertain, we might never get the chance to see Blur again. If you’re still tossing up about buying tickets to the remaining shows, do it. You won’t regret it.
Originally published on FasterLouder.