Blur, Live Review, 26th June 2009

Here’s my review of the amazingĀ Blur gig at the Manchester MEN Arena on 26th June 2009.

Damon Albarn at Manchester MEN Arena

The last time I saw Blur live was in 1994 at Alexandra Palace, so I approached this gig with some very high expectations. All the rumours are true, they are totally on the best form they’ve ever been. You could tell all 4 of the boys enjoyed every minute of their time back on stage, they looked like they’d hardly changed at all in the intervening 10 years since they’ve been working on other things. Damon still jumped around with the exuberance of a 20 year old, Graham played in his shy way concentrating hard, occasionally looking up to smile, the only thing missing from Alex was a lazy fag hanging out of his mouth and Dave still plays drums as if he’s got a permanent crick in his neck!

The set was absolutely explosive and a brilliant overview of their back catalogue. I was really relieved that the show wasn’t a ‘greatest hits’ but more seemed to be their own favourite songs. There was something quite strange about listening to these songs that first grabbed me 15-16 years ago this time as an adult – even Damon nodded to this as he changed the words to Tracy Jacks – from ‘he’s getting past 40’ to ‘he’s getting past 50’! There was a different kind of depth to the lyrics that I had not felt so much before – singing/shouting ‘it’s just so overrated’ means more somehow as a 31 year old than as a 16 year old!

The show kicked off with She’s so high, starting right at the beginning of their career and burst into two tracks from Parklife. Then, Damon mentioned that when they started out, everything cool was from Manchester, and the next track was influenced by that sound – There’s no other way. After a poppy start they ventured into their less mainstream stuff with some stripped back versions of Out of Time, Trimm Trabb (when lots of people took the chance to nip to the loo – it was the only lull in the whole gig) and Graham stepping forward with lead vocals on Coffee and TV.

Then came the climax of the show, an amazing performance of Tender in 3 parts. It started with just the 4 boys, playing the song fairly straight, with Alex on double bass, then it moved to just Damon, singing and playing acoustic guitar and then rose to a final crescendo with a four part backing choir (my suspicion is this will be the highlight at Glastonbury on Sunday as well as I think the full gospel choir will be there!)

Next Damon mentioned Michael Jackson and that the press would be having a field day, he dedicated a raucous performance of Country House against all the tabloid press. Then came a trio of songs from my favourite Blur album – Modern Life is Rubbish. Phil Daniels then jumped onto the stage, looking younger than he did in 1994 and younger than the band! He delivered Parklife perfectly and clearly loved every minute – as did we.

Following that, the pace slowed down and Blur played three of their best ballads/slower songs. I was touched as they played ‘to the end’ as they used a disco ball, just as they had at the Ally Pally gig in 1994. Then came a song that I have read is a ‘signifcant’ song for the band and mine and many other’s favourite, This is a low.

Encore time – and I was hoping they were going to play it, the boys came back and ripped into Popscene with Damon crowd surfing! For the next song, Dave played a strange drum rhythm over and over for what seemed like an age and I’m sure everyone in the arena was wondering which song it was going to be, Damon started up a chant of ‘go, go, go, go’ and it slowly dawned on the crowd that it was the song we’d been waiting for – Song 2, woo hoo!

Finally the lads returned to the stage for one final encore with the last song the soaring ‘The universal’ – “this is your lucky day” I certainly felt it was mine.

Set list:

She’s so high
Girls and Boys
Tracy Jacks
There’s no other way
Out of Time
Trimm Trabb
Coffee and TV
Country House
Oily Water
Chemical World
Sunday Sunday
Parklife (with Phil Daniels)
End of a century
To the End
This is a low

Song 2

For Tomorrow
The Universal

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