You could be easily forgiven for thinking that a Blur show in 2015 would be a nostalgia trip for those clinging on to the so-called glory days of the 90's Britpop scene. You'd be wrong, however. Whilst their reunion in 2009 and subsequent years of touring defined themselves as one of the all time greats, something had to give in order to stop things growing stale. That something proved to be the frankly remarkable new album 'The Magic Whip', the focal point of tonight's enormous show in Hyde Park.
As they take to the stage, guitarist Graham Coxon leads the way into recent single 'Go Out' with a deafening roar of feedback signaling that the sound issues of their 2012 show in this very venue won't be repeated. With Damon Albarn pacing about the stage like a man possessed, the band have the crowd onside immediately, chanting back every single word as though this new song has been familiar for years.
Following a jubilant 'There's No Other Way', Albarn moves into the crowd with a stack of ice cream from a van parked on the side of the stage, which doesn't really go to plan as he's mobbed by adoring fans. It's just part of making 'The Magic Whip' central to the show, with stunning visuals providing a breathtaking backdrop throughout the evening, particularly during a trippy, powerful 'Thought I Was A Spaceman', which alone more than validates Blur's return, proving that despite the years between records, they're a band who continue to raise standards and expectations.
Whilst it's wonderful to see Blur moving forward with such ease, the band's rich history cannot be ignored and the inevitable communal singalong of 'Tender' remains irresistible. Propelled forward by a chorus of gospel singers, the crowd takes over, bellowing back every word with euphoric abandon. Phil Daniels then introduces himself to the crowd with a ladsy bellow of 'OI OI' and we all know what's to come – after another dishing out of whipped ice cream, a raucous, violent rendition of 'Parklife' sends everybody berserk. Whilst the new songs in the set have evidently breathed new life into the band, the reaction to classics such as 'Parklife' and 'Song 2' prove that Blur's back catalogueis still just as relevant and important as it was in the 90's.
Upon returning to the stage, the band launches into an encore of undisputable crowd pleasers – after the uptempo giddiness of 'Stereotypes', 'Girls and Boys' and 'For Tomorrow', Albarn pauses to reflect on the moment as if it wasn't already clear enough to see how much this show means to him and the band. There's the beauty of Blur – you'd be hard pressed to find the mutual appreciation between the band and their fans replicated with such sincerity elsewhere. With the emotional finale of 'The Universal' providing a perfect end to a pretty perfect evening, it can't be denied that not only are Blur back, they're better than ever before.
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part of British Summer Time, on Friday 13th July