- 02 Sep 15
Long acknowledged as the best of britpop, their reunion has seen Blur properly transcend eras and genres. As they take their seat at the greatest bands of all time table. They bring their cool new treats to Stradbelly.
Who fancies a cone? If they give their Irish fans the Hyde Park treatment, Blur are buying. Back in June, they arrived in front of a London crowd complete with a fully-functional ice cream van. Their comeback album is called The Magic Whip, y’see? Best of
all, the arrival of the Spinal Tap- esque prop wasn’t soundtracked by a creepy, out-of-tune chiming version of ‘Greensleeves’. Instead, the audience was treated to a formidable range of indie classics alongside new, vital dispatches from their time in Hong Kong, sprung from the pen of Damon Albarn, adorned with noisy shards of Graham Coxon’s beloved Telecaster and held together and given an effortless bounce by cheese-maker Alex James and solicitor Dave Rowntree.
That they wanted to make a show of their first long-playing release in 12 years was sweet in more ways than one and, most significantly, completely warranted. Fingers crossed they’re in a similar mood for Stradbally.
For their Electric Picnic headliner is that strangest of things – seldom if ever do you head for a main stage set from a reunited outfit of their vintage desperately hoping they do a whole heap of new stuff. But, in this age of ‘getting the band back together’, Blur have wriggled free from the conventions and sidestepped the pitfalls.
They could have, and for a time seemed content to, simply pop up once in a while for a gargantuan heritage show and a similarly- sized pay check. Blur, however, had unfinished business. Forget 12 years, it was the 20th century when last Graham Coxon was fully involved with one of their records.
A spare week while touring Asia in the summer of 2013 saw the four enter a studio with the hopes of conjuring up some old magic. Silence followed – until Coxon, the prodigal son, took it upon himself last Christmas to salvage the sessions with Stephen Street and rope Albarn back in for melodies, vocals, words. Against all odds, the resulting Magic Whip is a revelation, showing there’s plenty of creative life left in the old Essex Dogs.
Keeping things relevant, Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave are now comic book heroes. Hong Kong artist Kong Kee was commissioned to immortalise the band in ink, along with that ice cream truck, which developed the ability to fly on the page.
With all rosy with the Gallaghers these days, Coxon has also been firing shots at the new competition. Rap, it turns out, isn’t particularly his bag, with the bespectacled six-stringer calling Kanye West a “fucking idiot.” We’ll be expecting you to outdo Mr. West’s much talked about Glasto headliner, then, Graham.
When it comes to showmanship, Albarn will be doing most of the heavy lifting. It’s just as well, then, that when he throws on that Fred Perry shirt, he reverts to energetic ‘90s form. Capable of being quite a reserved, almost melancholic, presence when he’s brought his other ventures to the stage in recent years, he knows full well what’s required of Blur’s frontman. Expect him to be engaging with the crowd and pogoing more wildly than is recommended for most men entering their late 40s. And pulling it off in style. The moshpits across Europe have duly responded in kind thus far.
If we’re talking set lists, at every show this festival season, they’ve opened with swaggering newie ‘Go Out’ to a raucous reception. The stately, wistful ballad ‘Pyongyang’ has also proven powerful, while ‘Ong Ong’ has been vying with ‘Tender’ in the “arms around yer mate” festival singalong stakes.
The old stuff? Rest assured, you’re in for a career-spanning set. Sitting alongside evergreen favourites ‘Beetlebum’, ‘Girls & Boys’, ‘This Is A Low’ and The Universal’ have been the lesser heralded but equally accomplished likes of ‘Badhead’. With a bountiful back catalogue that puts other revered bands to shame, they can dip in at will and unearth another gem ready for a bit of a live polishing.
A colossal headliner that will shine brightly long after the last rays of the summers sun dip behind Rankin's Wood.