Blur - Brixton Academy, London
“Put it down to the moments” Damon Albarn explains when Blur are forced to leave the stage tonight temporarily due to a bizarre fuse blow-out during Trimm-Trabb on their PA system. You can understand exactly what he means. At gigs such as these, it’s “moments” like this that can often endear a band to your hearts for ever, and Blur’s second night at the Brixton Academy is full of them. Say for instance, when Damon misses the guitar solo on Out Of Time and apologetically claims he was too caught up in the moment, despite playing the song live nearly a hundred times. Or how about when Phil Daniels is brought on stage to not only perform Me, White Noise with the band but 'Park Life' too, turning the venue into one big sing-along in an instant? All the night needed was Graham Coxon to appear, and you are sort of surprised when he doesn’t.
Whereas Radiohead rely on light shows and moody set lists, tonight’s Blur gig is all about fun and no pretentiousness; the band want us to enjoy themselves as much as they do and vice versa. Proceedings are predictably kicked off with Ambulance from brilliant new album Think Tank, and we then are treated very quickly to Beetlebum which sets the crowd up brilliantly for Girls And Boys. Already, Damon is diving into the crowd despite it only being the third number, and this intimacy with the crowd sets the tone for the entire evening. Savagely ruffled by adouring fans, Albarn jokes about his jumper being from Marks And Spencer when scrambling back on stage. Meanwhile, the tubbier Alex James poses away on bass, and Dave Rowntree pounds away thanklessly on drums. Simon Tong, ex-Verve guitarist and Coxon stage replacement, performs admirably but deliberately never steps into the spotlight, which seems to suit Albarn fine as he has never looked happier.
Cruising blissfully through stand outs such as Sweet Song, Popscene, Tender, the achingly beautiful To The End or the sonic assault of Song 2, Blur’s material has never been richer. It speaks volumes about a band when you don’t notice that they fail to perform their two most recent singles on stage, Crazy Beat and Good Song. It doesn’t matter, especially as End Of The Century and the underrated Music Is My Radar are performed instead.
Tonight was a band letting their performance do all the talking, without depending on any trace of gimmick or novelty. Seeing the appreciation of the audience in Albarn's face was touching in itself, and after they finished their encore with This Is A Low and finally departed the stage for good, you sense that Blur have become the highlight of everyone’s month. Let’s hope they don’t call it a day just yet, especially as they appear to be reaching their second musical peak as a band, with or without Coxon.