Been meaning to post all day a hat-tip to our very own Alex James who – before he was a Spectator columnist and celebrated cheese-maker – used to play the bass in a rather successful little group called Blur. Last night, reunited and re-energised, they played their final UK gig in Hyde Park. And, whether or not you were around first time to enjoy these great songs, it really was rather special.
From the opening chords of "She’s So High", it was clear that the band which defined "Cool Britannia" do not intend to fade into obsolescence with that New Labour-infected moment, nor to go through the motions like a nostalgia act, reforming occasionally to ensure an annual pay day from their grown-up and now-professional fanbase. They still mean business, thank God.
Damon Albarn may be 41 and no longer a plausible enfant terrible but he still knows how to grasp a crowd by their collective throats and take them on a Britpop journey. Dave Rowntree on drums, Graham Coxon on guitar and Alex himself have lost none of their zest and power. Indeed, a few years away from each other’s company seems to have done them a lot of good. Blur are no longer outraged art school youngsters trying to burn grunge out of lazy British culture. But they still look good in plain T-shirts and Fred Perry, a reminder that British pop is about more than reality TV competitions. And a terrific song is a terrific song whether it’s played in 1993 (the year in which the band’s second album, Modern Life is Rubbish, was released and we realised how truly fabulous they were) or in 2009. The music endures.
So we sang along to all the greats: Chemical World, End of a Century, To the End, Girls and Boys, There’s No Other Way, and a heartstoppingly lovely rendition of Tender. Phil Daniels brought a smile to thousands of faces by coming on stage to do his turn on Parklife. Damon told everyone to look at the moon. The light began to fade across the park, the colours of central London growing unimaginably lovely with it. The band said good night. And then – of course – came back on to do a series of encores framed round the almighty Song 2 with its two-syllable, rabble-rousing refrain.
As this great British foursome gave it their all, I remembered how thrilled I was when I first heard their music, and how often I have listened to it over the years. Like all true culture, it is one of the threads which run through a life. My life, anyway, and millions of others I suppose. Which is both wonderful and tinged with melancholy. Because then – of course – they were gone again. Will they be back? Is that it?
Oh, come on. What do you think? Woohoo!Tags: Alex James, Culture, Music