By Tom Eagar
It marked not only the end of an incredible fortnight of sport, but possibly Blur’s last ever live performance. For two weeks, London’s Hyde Park played host to dozens of bands and musicians who acted as the background to the scenes of Olympic dreams unfolding on the big screens that were dotted around the park’s arena. On Sunday 12th August however, with all the medals awarded, sport took a backseat to allow music to see out the Games.
Coinciding with the frivolities that were unfolding a few miles to the East in the Olympic Stadium, an alternative homage to British music was playing out in the London park. Supporting the headline act were New Order and The Specials, two bands who hold a unique place in British music’s rich history. Whilst both acts put in good turns, this was always going to be Blur’s night. As the sun set, the stage screen parted, and the party began.
Appearing out from under a huge reconstruction of lead singer Damon Albarn’s beloved Westway to a wall of noise, these were a four piece that, if the rumours of their end are true, will clearly be sadly missed. The dual carriageway that runs through most of West London is referenced in a number of Blur’s songs, but most notably in their recent single Under The Westway, which, as Albarn will later tell the 80,00 strong crowd “really, [Under The Westway] is just written for…you. In Hyde Park. Today”.
Back to the opening however, and kicking off the night with an explosive rendition of Girls and Boys, Albarn quickly had the crowd in the palm of his hand, which was exactly where they stayed for the next glorious two hours. London Loves, another ode to the country’s capital followed, and taken with ‘For Tomorrow’ – a story of being in love and lost in the city – Blur confirmed themselves as the most suitable choice for tonight’s celebrations. The obvious love and pride that the four piece have for their city – and what it’s achieved over the past fortnight – is all the more significant because it was reflected back at them by the crowd’s roars of appreciation at their London focused tunes.
The night’s adrenaline infused pop rushes came in the form of Country House, Parklife and Song 2, which saw the crowd gleefully jumping along to the Graham Coxon’s recognisable guitar riffs. As much as the night was a joyous celebration of the triumph that the previous two weeks had been, it was also a rather melancholic goodbye to all that, and Blur had songs to fit that mood too. The emotional trump cards of Tender, This is a Low and the heartbreaking No Distance Left to Run got the crowd hugging and swaying along, and their fantastic closer of The Universal was no exception. By turns inspiring and melancholic, it was a euphoric end to a euphoric two weeks. If it turns out that this was the last we see of Blur, at least they can bow out knowing that they ended it on a magical note.