“We’re rowing in, going for gold, grabbing the baton, for the high jump. No, hang on, is that right?” the band wrote on their Facebook page back in February. And so it was announced that Britpop icons Blur would return to the scene of their triumphant 2009 reunion gigs and perform an Olympic closing ceremony concert at Hyde Park to mark the end of the games. A gig to celebrate the best of British music at the end of a glorious fortnight of British success.
The heroic endeavours of the athletes of the London games had certainly set the bar high, but any thoughts that Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave’s set may prove to be somewhat of an anti-climax were dispelled as soon as the opening bars of ‘Girls & Boys’ rang out to 60,000 screaming admirers, with the band performing under a giant, illuminated reconstruction of the Westway flyover found only a few miles from Hyde Park itself. “We love London!” exclaimed Damon Albarn before the band tore through suitably British Parklife staples ‘London Loves’, ‘Tracey Jacks’ and ‘Jubilee’.
As you may expect with a band of Blur’s magnitude, fan favourites and spirited singalongs were in steady supply, with the anthemic ‘Beetlebum’, the Coxon-led ‘Coffee & TV’, and the hypnotic ‘Out of Time’ following in quick succession. Hardcore fans were catered for, with the inclusion of 1993 B-Side ‘Young and Lovely’ (dedicated to the band’s children) and a rare outing for 13 album track ‘Caramel’. The party atmosphere reached fever pitch with a double-header of chart-topping ‘Country House’ and Britpop classic ‘Parklife’, the later featuring cameos from actor Phil Daniels and, more surprisingly, Harry Enfield, handing out tea to the band mid-song dressed as “another Great British institution, the Tea Lady!” as Albarn put it.
Albarn went on to praise the positive effect the Olympics had had on the city and the British public as a whole, before conducting a mass re-enactment of Mo Farah’s “MoBot” celebration. ‘Popscene’ and the iconic ‘Song 2’, dedicated to Farah, whipped the crowd into a rocking frenzy, before ‘Tender’ evoked the biggest singalong of the night, the 60,000 person choir singing back every word to messieurs Coxon and Albarn, before closing the main set with ‘This Is A Low’.
New song, and catalyst for this reunion gig, ‘Under The Westway’ proceeded in the encore, a song Albarn said was “written for you, written for Hyde Park”. Thankfully, the opening line of there being “blue skies in my city today” had come to fruition earlier in the day.
‘End Of A Century’ and Modern Life Is Rubbish classic ‘For Tomorrow’ followed, Albarn changing the lyrics of the former to joke at the band’s growing age (“The mind gets dirty, as you get closer to fifty”). The epic 26 song set then closed on an awe-inspiring rendition of ‘The Universal’, every member of the crowd singing and applauding to a clearly overcome Albarn & Co.
If this is to be the band’s last ever live performance, it will be a fitting end, one that cements their legacy as a truly great British band, and provided the perfect conclusion to an incredible two weeks in the capital.