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Blur – Parklive Review

If Pulp were the working-class flagbearers for Britpop, and Oasis were the over glorified, Blair supporting shit-peddlers that they most certainly are, where does that leave Blur? You’d be unsurprised to hear that they toil in the middle, and there’s no greater experience of such a theory than throughout the two-hour live show, Parklive. A pun on possibly their most popular song, Parklive is a live concert piece that sees Blur perform to thousands upon thousands of idiots as they bounce up and down throughout their 2012 Hyde Park set.

During the opening notes of Parklife, Harry Enfield trots around the stage in a tea lady outfit, offering cups of tea to the band. At this stage in the evening, it’s clear that we’re no longer participating members of reality, and have slipped our way into the middle-class utopia that plays out in the heroin addled mind of Damon Albarn. As cheesemaker and one-off Top Gear star Alex James beats his way through the varyingly credible basslines, it’s nice to see that Albarn sways himself and his beer belly to the rhythm of various Blur songs. From their greatest hits to the elusive B-sides, it’s a grand showcase of the potential they held as Britpop icons. Sprinkling in more than a few of their less than stellar post-Britpop, wannabe rocker period songs and you’ve got yourself a very mixed set on the whole.

You can feel the resentment in those guitar riffs from Graham Coxon, and as expected, Dave Rowntree keeps himself to himself, providing formidable and steady drumbeats throughout the entire show. Coxon is at least allowed to perform Coffee and TV, one of Blur’s better songs from their post The Great Escape days. There’s not many of those knocking around, either.

Parklive is keen to litter the hits in all the right places so as not to create a rift between the hardcore Blur fans and those that only know them in passing. I find myself very much in the latter category, and hearing reprisals of Girls and Boys, Parklife and Country House was, frankly, a tad disappointing. One of many bands who, when compared to their recorded studio stuff, faulter more than a handful of times, it’s a sad state of affairs to see a couple of songs completely butchered here and there. A beautiful rendition of The Universal rounds off the night though, and we thankfully see the reunion end on a high note.

A solid enough set, one that feels rather diluted by the mass appeal of the band and their somewhat disappointing setlist. The omissions are possibly the worst part of the show, no To The End in sight, not one note of Charmless Man and there’s no chance of Top Man or Best Days ever seeing the light of day again. Still, for those few moments of greatness, Parklive is well worth watching. It harbours within it the flickering spirit of a band who didn’t have much left to offer outside of performing a handful of their greatest hits.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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