Blur Fans Weep as Band Signs Off With Instant Album

Blur at Hyde Park
Damon Albarn of Blur mid-air at the BT London Live celebration Concert at Hyde Park. Their Aug. 12, 2012 performance may be their last ever show, as no more shows are planned. Photographer: Danny Martindale/Getty Images via Bloomberg

This is the age of the instant album. Blur had only just finished what may be its last ever show and the machines were cranking out a digital download.

Today, we can hear the result online. Next week, the two-CD version will be in shops. The title is “Parklive,” a reference to the Hyde Park location of the concert and one of Blur’s hits, “Parklife.”

A five-disc version with a DVD comes in November: The audio only goes some way to capture one of the most charged gigs in the park for months, and that includes concerts by Madonna and Bruce Springsteen.

Some fans, who have followed the Britpop band for more than two decades, were left in tears at the prospect of the end of a glorious career.

“Is this really the last curtain?” said Joanne Radway, a 43-year-old computer analyst from Enfield. “At least they didn’t sign off with ‘To the End’ or we’d know this was totally final.” That song closes with the words “looks like we might have made it to the end.”

Blur encored with the just as serious “The Universal” and its lyrics “when the days they seem to fall through you, well just let them go. Just let them go.”

No more shows are planned. Singer Damon Albarn, who made no reference to that onstage, stood tearful and motionless for a minute looking at the sell-out crowd of 60,000 people. He said “goodnight” rather than “goodbye” before walking away.

Inspiring Mo

The instant album kicks off with “Girls & Boys,” and the fans yelling along to every word. So it continues, through a frenzied “Beetlebum” and “Song 2,” with wild “Whoo-hoos” ringing around the arena. That 1997 hit was dedicated by Albarn to Team GB medalist Mo Farah, whom he called an “inspiring human being.”

There were walk-on roles by actor Phil Daniels and comedian Harry Enfield, who was inexplicably dressed as a tea lady.

The band was dressed down in denim, with Albarn wearing his best cheeky-chappy grin at the start. His other musical activities, such as Gorillaz, have put Blur on the backburner.

Graham Coxon, who has been forging an indie-pop solo career, intently played his guitar while Alex James, now best known as a farmer and cheese maker, thrashed his bass with abandon. Dave Rowntree kept a politically correct beat on drums, as befits a New Labour activist trying to get into parliament.

The stage featured a large freeway bridge, a reference to the single “Under the Westway,” which Albarn said was written in February with the Olympics and this event in mind.

Curfew Noise

Some fans complained that the sound was too low. The venue has kept the volume down after local-council action that led to a recent Springsteen show being ended because of a curfew.

Many onlookers sported union-flag capes or fake Olympic medals. Still, this was the “cool Olympic closing concert,” which also featured Bombay Bicycle Club, New Order and the Specials.

Most of the world was watching the spectacular televised ceremony at the Olympic stadium, with performances by the considerably less chilled Spice Girls, George Michael, Queen, One Direction and Take That.

The Hyde Park audience could see live coverage of the rival event on giant screens around the BT London Live site. There were boos for comedians such as Eric Idle (“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”) and Russell Brand (“I Am the Walrus”) and flag-waving for the Who’s incendiary medley. And more tears at the video feed of the Olympic caldron being extinguished.

Whether we were watching just the end of the London 2012 games is an open question. If it was the also end of Blur, it was at least a heck of a way to bow out.

Rating: ****.

What the Stars Mean:
*****      Exceptional
****       Excellent
***        Good
**         Average
*          Mediocre
(No stars) Poor

“Parklive” and “A Symphony of British Music -- Music For The Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games” are available for download. Ratings: ***. The physical CDs will be released next week for both, priced about $15.

The five-disc “Parklive” box will be available in November including a DVD. The box set “Blur 21,” also on EMI, is about $160 or 135 pounds. Rating: ****. Coxon’s “A&E” and Albarn’s “Dr. Dee” were released this year on Parlophone. Ratings: ***.

Download prices vary across services.


(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include James Russell on architecture and Amanda Gordon’s Scene Last Night.

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