“This is our first gig in three years…” Damon proffered a couple of songs in “…and obviously we are feeling a bit scared”; before diving head-first into a crowd-delighting set of classics. Nostalgia is a dangerous thing; but Christ did they rise to the challenge.
Just to be clear from the out-set: Blur hold a very special place in my heart. At 13 I destroyed my tape of “The Great Escape”through repeated listen on a school trip to Wales. My first gig, at 14, was Blur supported by the Super Furrys and at 15 I learned to play bass through earnest enactments of “Parklife”. These boys-turned-men had a lot to live up to. “This is our first gig in three years … ” Damon proffered a couple of songs in “… and obviously we are feeling a bit scared”; before launching his way into a raucous rendition of “Country House”, complete with furious leaps that quelled all fear on both sides of the barrier. Nostalgia is a dangerous thing; but Christ did they rise to the challenge.
Blur’s performance in Margate was very much focused on the relationship between Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon. The set-list shied away from “Leisure” –which Coxon famously dislikes (with “Sing” as its sole representative)– and avoided the majority of post-Graham material. Rather it favoured an audience-delighting run of tracks from their celebrated golden years: “Parklife”, “The Great Escape”, “13” and “Blur”.
The dynamic was tested towards the beginning of the set, when Coxon’s guitar failed him during his “Trimm Trab” solo. There was palpable tension both on-stage and off, which climaxed with Coxon smashing the guitar and petulantly empting his pint of beer over it. Damon sheepishly asked if he was OK and hugged him warmly, whilst the audience chanted “Graham”. Happily, the tantrum was short-lived and Damon looked genuinely delighted when Graham ‘s mood lightened and he began to pogo in true Brit-pop fashion.
There was a distinct possibility that a reformation of this calibre would fall into one of two camps; a cash cow or a museum piece. The odds were quietly against them: Dave Rowntree is forever ingrained in my mind in solicitors robes, Alex James is a cheese-maker who consorts with Cameron and writes for The Sun, Graham Coxon is a mardy chap whose prone to indulge his moods and Damon Albarn instigated the Gorillaz: but tonight, they reigned supreme.
“Tender”, “ No Distance Left To Run” and –yes– “Song 2” were obvious highlights, but “End Of A Century” was the emotional crux of the evening. Damon embraced his advancing years with good humour: the lyric “as you get closer to 50” replaced the classic “30” (accompanied by a slap to the forehead) and the frontman kept his ageing punters cool by with dousing them with mineral water. At one point the chap next to me turned and said “I am sorry, I am so old, I have seen them 15 times” before shaking the sweat from his brow like a dog post cool-sea dip.
Nostalgia is a dangerous thing, yes, but here it was handled with dexterity. No one denied the passing of time –fingers were ringed and cigarette lighters were replaced by the swaying glow of mobile phones– but rather celebrated the distance travelled together. This was underscored by my final experience of the evening. While screaming bodies begged for another encore, Damon beat his chest in emphatic appreciation and one fan turned to another to quip (in a quintessentially dry British tone): “I think they’ve done quite well”.