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Blur At Hyde Park: The Perfect Send-Off For Them & The Olympics

by Tim Brown
13 August 2012 6 Comments

There's been talk that this would be the final concert for Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave - the question was whether it would it deliver on its immense emotional potential....

 

What a couple of weeks we’ve had. There was plenty of scepticism going into these Olympics from the media, and a feeling that people just wanted it over with as soon as possible. All that changed with Danny Boyle’s fantastic Opening Ceremony. Now, as the Closing Ceremony was happening across in East London, Hyde Park welcomed the best of British music for a proper celebration.

Even before Bombay Bicycle Club took to the stage the park was full. The band were just finishing school when the last Olympics in Beijing was running, and being from London themselves this must have been a very special moment for them. The crowd, a real mixture of old and young, were fully engaged as they stormed through tracks from all three albums.

A reformed New Order (sans Peter Hook) were next up. The years may not have been kind to Bernard Sumner, but it was like he’d never been away during the short set that included ‘True Faith’, ‘Blue Monday’ and even Joy Division classics ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and ‘Isolation’.  ‘World in Motion’ would surely have been a fitting addition to this unique day, but alas there was no sign.

Throughout the park you couldn’t move for t-shirts emblazoned with The Specials‘ name. Considering the fact that the Opening Ceremony didn’t avoid some of Britain’s not so great moments alongside those that we celebrate everyday, it seemed fitting that a band known for their protests songs were invited along. Ska is a genre that even yours truly can dance to. The crowd, whether celebrating the lyrics or not, agreed as the entire park erupted in a running men.

Under the Westway’ was a huge success. Early on in the encore. Damon introduced it as a track special to them and to the evening

The reason we were all there, though,  was Blur. It had been a little over three years since I had last seen them, which as it happens had also been in Hyde Park. The reunion back then promised much moving forward, but all we got were greatest hits and special compilations. That was until the announcement of this gig and the performance of two new songs on a roof, written specifically for this date. Despite the omission of ‘The Puritan’ from this performance, ‘Under the Westway’ was a huge success. Early on in the encore. Damon introduced it as a track special to them and to the evening. By then, the emotion was starting to show in his eyes.

That was almost two hours into the set. A set that had started in with the familiar early crowd-get-goer ‘Girls & Boys’, quickly followed by the rarely performed, but very apt, ‘London Loves’. Further tracks that the band love playing live came up next in the form of ‘Tracy Jacks’ and ‘Jubilee’.

‘Beetlebum’, ‘Coffee & TV’… the hits kept coming. Damon then, in typical Damon form, brought up a Syrian musician by the name of Khyam Allami to help out on ‘Out of Time’. He loves his world music, and the fact that Syria are currently banned from the Olympics no doubt had a huge part to play in the decision to include Allami.

We had been promised the rarity of hearing ‘Caramel’ live, and that promise was fulfilled. Phil Daniels (and bizarrely a tea lady played by Harry Enfield) joined them on stage for ‘Parklife’. Not that he was needed as the entire crowd shouted the lyrics at the top of their voice. I could go on and list every song they played, but of course we heard ‘Country House’, ‘Song 2’ and crowd favourite ‘Popscene’, before ending the main set with ‘Tender’ and ‘This is a Low’.

The set was finished with the perfect pop of ‘For Tomorrow’ and of course ‘The Universal’

It was during the feature length encore that what this concert meant to them shone through. After the aforementioned ‘Under the Westway’, Damon took to the piano for a wonderful performance of ‘End of the Century’. The set was finished with the perfect pop of ‘For Tomorrow’ and of course ‘The Universal’. This all seemed a bit too much for Albarn, who stood open mouthed on the stage while the crowd sang every word back at him.

As the band thanked the crowd, there was real emotion there. I think Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave, along with everybody there, knew that this was probably the last time we’d see them together. One of the true great British pop bands had just delivered the perfect send off to an amazing two weeks.

If you liked this, check these out

Blur’s Under The Westway Is The New Tender

Ch-ch-ch-changes: From Joy Division, To New Order To Now (Part 2)

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Seamus (from the Vengaboys) 3:05 pm, 13-Aug-2012

Hi, Tim. I enjoyed the review, but your spellchecker is on English (US) (see 'skepticism').

David Hillier 3:15 pm, 13-Aug-2012

Hi Seamus, it's changed! Thanks for the eagle eyes!

Paul 3:55 pm, 13-Aug-2012

Cracking gig. If it really is their final send off then they couldn't have done it better.

Mark Wilson 4:17 pm, 13-Aug-2012

Couldn't agree less! I went to BT London Live - the queue for beer was utterly unforgiveable! 4/5 bars, 1 hour wait at best. I saw The Specials - who were smashing out some real crowd pleasers - but I was shocked by the amount of complete douchebags in the audience. I guess that goes with the territory at Hyde Park gigs but 1. considering the security, the number of stoners sparking up was incredible, 2. considering the 'family vibe', the first thing I unfortunately saw when I was arrived was a bunch of guys having a piss in full view of everyone, and 3. considering the 'we're all in this together' platitudes, the gigantic corporate no-go zones were sickening. On the other hand, with the exception of The Spice Girls and One Direction, who I personally can't stand, the Closing Ceremony was almost as good as the Opening Ceremony. Muse - fantastic. George Michael - surprisingly good. Tinie / Jessie / Taio - good effort. Queen - classic. Eric Idle / Indian dancers - bonkers but fun. The athletes were clearly getting into the same party spirit that the audience had enjoyed for 2 weeks and it was a spectacle which, by the snippet of Brazilian culture is anything to go by, Rio will struggle to match up to. That said... Mel B... You still would.

Tim Brown 4:42 pm, 13-Aug-2012

Hi Mark I agree with a lot of what you say there, but decided to concentrate on how good Blur were. The beer queue was one of the worst I've witnessed in years of gig and festival going. I think I got lucky with where I was and the crowd around me. I've heard a lot of people moan about conversations happening all around them and people ignoring the music. I didn't experience that myself though. Equally, I've heard people moan about the sound quality early on, but again I must have got lucky my positioning.

David Hillier 5:09 pm, 13-Aug-2012

Hyde Park is going to struggle with rock gigs next year- obviously a lot of complaints regarding this one ,then the whole Springsteen debacle...

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