A Thursday night in Llandudno, a stunning summer’s night in the picturesque Welsh town, filled with couples enjoying the sun, strolling along the pier, whilst basking in the beautiful scenery surrounding the bay. As striking as the geography was, it’s replacement as the clock struck 9pm was an emphatic contrast, with its own unique beauty.
‘LLANDUDNO!’ shouts Albarn, and with a quick glance towards his side-kick Graham Coxon, and that cheeky grin that helped define arguably Britpop’s finest main stays, ‘Blur’ kick into action with comeback single ‘Go Out’, met with joy from the age-spanning crowd, joy which turned to delirium when the opening bars of first top 10 hit ‘There’s No Another Way’ sent the crowd into euphoria.
Six weeks after ‘The Magic Whip’, their sixth consecutive number 1 album, was released, also their first studio attempt since 2003’s Think Tank, the new songs were met with the same knowledge, excitement and pleasure as the old classics. This was confirmed when ‘Lonesome Street’ and ‘Ghost Ship’ sat perfectly alongside Coxon penned ‘Coffee and TV’ and Parklife spawned crowd favourite ‘Badhead’.
Next followed a 7 song fragment of sheer beauty, from the eastern sounding ‘Out of Time’, through the epic rarity of ‘He Thought of Cars’, which vividly distinguished the diehard fans from the greatest hits buyers, many of these making their way to the bar, these almost hidden songs provide the back bone to bands that stand the test of time.
The venue itself was perfect for a band warming up for two huge shows in coming weeks, Hyde Park and The Isle of Wight are in for a treat if the show can be replicated on a bigger stage. Although tens of thousands of fans and huge media recognition are desired by upcoming bands and artists, the ‘been there and done it’ attitude from Damon and the band was evident as their obvious enjoyment of the intimate gig was portrayed throughout. New ballad and catchy sing along ‘Ong Ong’ was placed perfectly after 90’s hits ‘Beetlebum’ and ‘Tender’, relaxing the crowd and resulting in arm-in-arm swaying, endless video recording from those that can’t live in the moment, and a gig-defining, crowd only chorus of ‘oh my baby, oh why’ from each and every person in the room. Yet again, this vibe was soon replaced, as a chest pumping Damon led the band through ‘Parklife’, and a laughing Graham Coxon sends the crowd into raptures with the guitar distortion of ‘Song 2’, following from Dave Rowntree’s never ending drum beat in the build-up. Forgetting the words during their biggest overseas hit didn’t faze Albarn, the band, nor the crowd, as cries of ‘Woo-Hoo’!’ would have drowned out even the biggest errors on stage.
The mood changed once more as the emotional poetry of a song written out of love, about love, in ‘To the End’, was followed by the churning beat of ‘This is a Low’, which signalled the end of the main set. Chanting’s of ‘here we go’ and ‘we want more’ beckoned the return of the band, to another rarity ‘Stereotypes’ followed by the bouncing notions of ‘Girls and Boys’, which fit in fantastically near the end, after often being the opener to recent concerts. The set finally drew to a close with the passionate, ‘The Universal’, bringing about a smattering of emotion throughout ‘the best crowd of the tour’ as stated by Albarn, which only brought about higher decibels of ‘It really, really really could happen’ from those on shoulders, from the married couples re living their youth, and groups of young people simply discovering a band that helped define a generation.
No band out of the ‘britpop era’ has churned out as many consistently great albums and singles, and especially not into 2015. Even without biggest seller ‘Country House’, and previous favourites ‘Popscene’, ‘Charmless Man’ and ‘End of a Century’, it made no difference to the embracing crowd at Venue Cymru. Hyde Park 2012 seemed like the end for this great band, however, it wouldn’t be naïve to speculate that Hyde Park 2015 may be just the beginning of a re-birth for Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave. Finally, Damon leaves the stage shouting ‘Llandudno, we love you!’ And we love you too, Blur.
You can see Blur live at one of the following shows…