Blur Dublin 2013 Photos and Review
Blur at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, August 1st, 2013.
Thursday night was quite special. After an absence of more than a decade, Alex, Graham, Dave & Damon brought Blur back to Dublin. The Blur concerts of the 90’s were seismic events at the end of the century. Whether it was the R.D.S. or the Point, you always left feeling that you had witnessed something exceptional. So perhaps punters were somewhat apprehensive as they made their way to Kilmainham, wondering would it be the same as it was back then. Those unwilling to take that risk and shell out the €70 for the ticket reassured themselves that it wouldn’t and were probably quite pleased when the weather forecast predicted a total washout. Unsurprisingly, Met Eireann got it wrong. So did the doubters.
Thursday night is an odd one though. I’ve said before that Irish music fans are not renowned for their punctuality so what’s the story with doors opening at 4pm? The Strypes didn’t stand a chance. The place wasn’t even half full by the time Bat For Lashes took to the stage but she did manage to get our attention. Partly due to the fact that she is wearing a winged and flared lycra onesie that any self respecting 70’s Swedish pop star/80’s Austrian skier would be proud of but mostly due to the fact that she has such a perfectly haunting voice and some rather remarkable songs to go with it. ‘Sleep Alone’ is one such song.
People are still flooding in, still searching for the toilets and still skipping the queue to the remarkably inadequate bar when the ground shakes with the unmistakable hook of ‘Girls & Boys’, boys and girls flocking to the stage in a veritable stampede. There is to be no messing about, it’s jugular time. Although the crowd is mixed, an obvious sign that Blur’s music has straddled at least a couple of generations, many are here for nostalgic reasons. For some, concerts, festivals and going mad on a Thursday night are distant memories but lost time is most definitely being made up for. The britpop of ‘Girls & Boys’ is followed by the shoegazing of ‘There’s No Other Way’ which is followed by the alternativity of ‘Beetlebum’. People don’t know what’s going on, they are taken totally by surprise, it’s sensory overload and they’re loving it. Most of us had forgotten how good this felt. There is no back of the crowd, everyone is all in. Clapping, dancing, jumping, shouting, singing, swaying, waving their arms like they don’t care and looking around at their mates in disbelief. This was as good as they remembered. Maybe even better.
Indeed, Blur themselves seem to be revelling in it with an abandon that belies their once aloof art-school aura. They seem more comfortable than they ever did before, happy even. Perhaps without the onus of having to be something else, something other than the music, they can actually just play the music. All the resentment, all the disagreements, the interviews, the rivalries, the ex-girlfriends, the Gallaghers, the hiatus, the drink, the cardboard cutouts; all the obstacles have been removed from their path and finally they get to enjoy it as much as we always did. ‘Tender’, once introspective and divisive is transformed to anthem as the crowd join in full voice. ‘The End’ asks more of seriously hoarse throats and it’s gladly given. Thankfully there is still no sign of the rain, other than the occasional shower of beer from passing punters weaving through the thickening crowd and balancing as many beers as they can (Seriously, why can’t we sort out the bars at these things? People will start saying that we can’t organise a piss-up in a brewery and we can’t have that. Whatever else people say about us right now, we can’t have that).
Damon make his way down into the crowd for a bit of ‘Country House’ before the inimitable Mr. Daniels joins them on stage for ‘Parklife’. It’s like sticking on Blur’s greatest hits (and last time I checked there are at least 3 of those). There isn’t even time to catch your breath and certainly not enough time to get another beer before the bar closes. ‘End of a Century’ is followed by ‘This Is A Low’ before the lads scarper from the stage leaving us to stew in anticipation of what promises to be one hell of an encore. Due mainly to their absence, most people know what songs are coming next and the excited chatter is drowned out by the obligatory chant for one more tune, even though we all know there’s going to be more than one.
First song in the encore is the (relatively) new song, ‘Under the Westway’ but you would be forgiven for thinking it was a classic from the crowd’s reaction. “Hallelujah, sing it out loud and sing it to you” (but of course ‘to you’ sounds like ‘to ya’ in that wonderful Essex accent) and that about sums it up. More sing along madness follows with ‘For Tomorrow’. At this stage it’s just one massive party as the crowd puts most festival crowds to shame with their perfectly in tune La-la-la-ing and general revelry. And all this with work in the morning? Fair play.
Then the first of two moments that we’ve all been waiting for; the strings that introduce their dystopian lovesong, ‘The Universal’. I’m sure many of the fans here never thought they’d hear this song live again but it really, really, really could and indeed is, happening. The outpouring of love and affection is all consuming and Damon makes his way down to the crowd to thank them personally. Someone gives him a flag, they had to really and he waves it around on stage before saying good bye and thank you. Then Coxon strums those unmistakable chords. ‘Song 2’ is upon us. I vaguely remember everyone going absolutely mental. The rest is just a blur.
Review by Jamie Tanner
Photos by Tudor Marian