I’ve been having laptop troubles this week, so I’ve lost the Blur review I’ve been working on, so it’ll be a little while before I get a write up posted of last week’s Southend gig. In the meantime, you’re probably up to speed with how effective and moving a reunion their return is proving, courtesy of last night’s (annoyingly brief) Glastonbury highlights on the BBC. Today’s papers seem to echo my view; that although the band started ever so slightly slowly, before long they gelled perfectly, and played pretty much the perfect festival set. Here’s a quick run-down on the reports I’ve been reading in the Nationals…
Tim Jonze from the Guardian was fabulously impressed, choosing to contrast Blur’s hi-energy performance with the workmanlike sets of Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. He writes:
“Tonight Blur are sticking their fingers up to dad-rock by falling in love all over again with the dumb art of playing pop music – and playing it loudly. Girls and Boys literally throbs with sordid energy, Song 2 sees the crowd threatening to pogo themselves off the earth’s axis, and Parklife turns every man, woman and anarcho-crustie into a cockney geeza. It’s hit after hit after hit. From She’s So High to the Universal, via Popscene, For Tomorrow and Country House, it’s nothing short of relentless.
(…) But for all their energy, it’s the sad songs that work best: To the End, The Universal, This is a Low. Weirder still is the reaction to Tender, a song never really rated (at least by me) as a classic, transformed into a joyous hug-a-long that reverberates around the crowd after the first encore and the second encore.
It’s at this point – when previously dismissed tracks acquire a new life of their own – that you realise something truly magical is going on. Because tonight’s headline slot is not just about the music. It’s not even about nostalgia. It’s about friendship – and the truly heartwarming sight of two best friends throwing aside their differences and starting afresh.”
Nick Hasted, writing for the Independent, noted the emotional undercurrent in the band’s performance, too:
“When Damon Albarn starts to grin five songs into their great Glastonbury comeback, Blur start to look like a band again. And when he breaks down weeping near the end, you know how much it meant. “Beetlebum” is the song where Albarn’s errant guitarist and childhood friend Graham Coxon fizzes up his effects pedals, bassist Alex James starts to spin, fag dangling, and you remember Blur were the 1990s’ great psychedelic band. (…) It is just before “This Is A Low”, the best of Albarn’s often deeply personal songs, that he sits on the stage and weeps, utterly overcome by all the times that have just been unstopped. Getting up to sing it is almost heroic.”
Here’s Pete Paphides in the Times.
“As for Blur, a simple “Wow!” from Damon Albarn hinted at the scale of their reception. The love their music continues to inspire was measurable in countless moments: the sight of four fans who had gone to the trouble of dressing up as the sad-faced milk cartons in the video of 1999’s Coffee and TV; the spontaneous communal “Yesss!” that greeted Girls and Boys; the way almost everyone present continued to sing the “Oh my baby” refrain of Tender — even after a hair-raisingly beautiful seven-minute performance of the song — so that Blur eventually had to start Country House over it.
If there was one thing that the group’s warm-up gigs of the previous weeks had lacked, it was a fitting arena for Britain to show how much it had missed them.
Not here though. Not a chance. A guesting Phil Daniels came on for Parklife and 100,000 people absolutely bellowed the chorus into the night sky. It was perhaps at this point that our memory of how good they were intersected most dramatically with their readiness to confirm it. Had we just witnessed the greatest headlining set in the festival’s history? The eno-o-ormous sense of wellbeing that swept through Worthy Farm suggested we most definitely had.”
And lastly, back in the Guardian, the most lyrical, evocative description of the lot, courtesy of Laura Barton.
“The audience, elated, even a touch delirious, wills them on; when Albarn’s voice gives way a little in Beetlebum, the crowd rushes to catch it. Tender, one of the set’s many highlights, is greeted with a warm rush of approval. “I’d forgotten they’re a singalong band!” says the man to my right, as the band stops and starts, revs up the chorus once more and then falls silent, the sudden quiet filled by several thousand festival-goers softly singing the song’s chorus: “Oh my baby,” they lilt, “Oh my baby. Oh why. Oh why.” It is one of the sweetest moments of the festival. Their efforts are duly rewarded with an ebulliant rendition of Country House, a song which acquires greater resonance here tonight for the muddy-booted masses. And for Alex James of course.
They haul out the hits: Parklife, This is a Low, To the End, to an increasingly enthusiastic reception. Returning to the stage for a rousing rendition of Song 2, and then again for The Universal, the band looks genuinely delighted as they look out over the flags, over the crowd with its sunburned noses and glitter-smeared faces, and peacock feathers in its hair, and far off to the countryside of Somerset and the floating candles flaring up into the sky. There is a pause as they seem to take in the magnificence of what they have done. And then comes the guitar, and the great singalong continues.”