Tuesday, April 6, 2010

CONCERT REVIEWS: Blur in Iceland (and beyond)

In 1996, after finishing off their touring obligations with some festival appearances in the summer (see THIS POST) and debuting a couple of new songs (Song 2, Chinese Bombs), Blur retreated into the studio to continue working on their musical reinvention. During this time Damon became enamored with the country of Iceland, so much so that he invested in a pub there and invited the band up for some recording. During this period, in the fall of 1996, Blur played a one-off show, on September 8, 1996 (the poster is courtesy Bjorn Halldorsson)



The concert was held at the Laugardalsholl in Reykjavik, Iceland on September 8, 1996 and the set list was:

Stereotypes
Tracy Jacks
Charmless Man
It Could Be You
Jubilee
End Of A Century
Beetlebum
Look Inside America
She's So High
Popscene
Globe Alone
Bank Holiday
Supa Shoppa
This Is A Low
Sing
Girls & Boys
Country House
To The End
For Tomorrow
There's No Other Way
Song 2
Parklife
The Universal

That is a great set list! First, they start off with Stereotypes, which is very unusual. The set includes rare (for 1996) performances of Sing, For Tomorrow, and the last Country House for a while. PLUS, two new songs were debuted: the very first live performances of Beetlebum and Look Inside America. Song 2 was also played (Chinese Bombs, debuted during the summer, is absent). Beetlebum sounds tentative but fully formed, although it's the first time Damon ever played guitar onstage and he warns the crowd beforehand! Look Inside America again sounds timid but complete, while Song 2 has slightly different lyrics than the versions from the summer of 1996, but is closer to the final version. A great concert. The anonymity Iceland offered, far from the roving eyes of the UK media, as well as the welcoming nature of the people that Blur found there, let them stretch out both in the studio and onstage to be more daring, and the results, again both on record and stage, were staggering.

This 1996 adventure stands in stark contrast with the show Blur played in Iceland at the same venue in 1997, on August 31, 1997 (poster courtesy of Bjorn again):



It was part of Blur's mini-tour of Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands, and is a much more somber, sloppy concert, supposedly because they found out Princess Diana had died that day. They took to the stage angry, sad, and very, very drunk. The set list was:

Beetlebum
M.O.R.
Movin' On
Stereotypes
Badhead
Country Sad Ballad Man
She's So High
To The End
Popscene
Chinese Bombs
Advert
Coping
Girls & Boys
Death Of A Party
The Universal
Theme From Retro
On Your Own
Parklife
Country House
I'm Just A Killer For Your Love
Song 2

Only the songs in bold font are available on recording. Bjorn and I are working on getting the complete show. Country House was played (surprisingly, it made a brief comeback in August 1997, as evidenced on the available V97 recording, which you can also download HERE). Overall, the band sound subdued, depressed, and bored, as if they want to get the concert over with and get off stage as quickly as possible. Still, it's a fascinating listen, and mediocre Blur is still better than no Blur at all!

The following posts will be the recordings of these two shows for your enjoyment. Please leave feedback!

4 comments:

  1. I didn't even know Blur played in countries like Feroe islands and Greenland!!! The 97 tour was so huge, they even came to the south of France, for my greatest pleasure ;)

    Just to annoy you with pathetic fan details but Damon didn't actually bought a bar, he just "invested" and got some parts in it to get some free beers (Alex explains it all in his book).

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  2. You're right about the bar! I overstated it in the post, I shall change it!!

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  3. Iceland's an interesting country, too. Some cool bands come from over there, notably here in the States Sigur Ros (who are VERY good; I highly recommend them--I saw them in concert about five years back without knowing anything about them, and was blown away) and yes, Bjork (who has some really amazing music). Blur always seem to like Iceland, and it looks like these shows reflect that fact.

    And they played Greenland! Cool!

    The posters are a really nice touch.

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  4. Yeah, my friend Bjorn in Iceland contributed those...let's thank him again!

    The '96 Iceland show is much better than the '97 one but both are worth checking out! I have fragments of the Greenland show (a few tracks) and the Faroe Islands show (half the show) and they're cool. Bjorn and I are working on trying to get complete copies of the Iceland '97 and Faroe Islands '97 show...stay tuned!

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