20 June 2015 (gig)
01 July 2015
A not-so-affable vendor shouts ‘Let’s ‘ave it,’ at potential customers. They respond favourably and, despite his bomber jacket and Fred Perry polo, the salesman relents and launches into a song.
Damon Albarn’s an unlikely purveyor of ice cream, but Blur’s new album cover (there’s a neon 99 front and centre) demands it. Happily, the next two hours are a showcase for his more obvious talents as a talismanic frontman for Britpop’s biggest and best.
The set begins in the present day, with Go Out, a song from The Magic Whip – Blur’s first album in 12 years and, crucially, the first with Graham Coxon since 1999’s 13.
It’s undeniably a Blur song but the crowd – a mix of old timers and young ‘uns who weren’t even born when Damon first feuded with Liam – are hungry for something else. They want the sugary thrill of familiarity.
Free ice creams, handed out to front rowers by Damon himself, help a bit, but it takes a trip all the way back to 1991 and the band’s second ever single, There’s No Other Way, to win everyone over.
Against a backdrop of Japanese-inspired visuals, what follows is a potted history of a very fine career. Band and crowd peak together for Beetlebum, for Phil Daniels’ obligatory cameo (you know the song) and for Song 2, but underlying the fun there’s a bittersweet theme.
End of a Century belies its cartoon lyrics and delivers serious emotional heft, Tender is beautifully wrought and then there are the wittily chosen set finishers, To The End and This Is A Low.
An encore brings The Great Escape to the fore – Stereotypes and The Universal sandwich Girls & Boys and For Tomorrow – and with that the boys are gone. For a well-earned ice cream, perhaps.
(Picture by James Yan)