Thursday, May 19, 2011
Whether you know this or not, opening and closing songs are *very* important to musicians, and have been for years. Whether it's an opera, a musical, a jazz band, a blues band, orchestra, or rock band, the way you start and end a concert can make a huge difference in the mood and direction the performance will take, for both the performer and the audience member. I can attest to this from personal experience, in my years as a trumpet player in a jazz band, an orchestral band, and as a guitarist/singer in my own rock bands over the years. Start a show out with energy and excitement and you can have the crowd eating out of your hand. Start it flat and it can take ages, if ever, for the interaction between crowd and band to warm up. The same goes for ending a show...if you end it with drama, or with excitement, you can send everyone home happy. But an anti-climactic or lackluster finish can leave people with an unresolved feeling in their ears that will color their perception of the entire concert, whether the rest was good or not.
Anyway, sorry for the tangential introduction to this post, but it does lead to a point: how you begin and end a concert is a *HUGE DEAL*!! After listening to loads of live albums, both official and "unofficial," of a variety of bands, I've heard this played out a bunch of times. So, this leads to...
THE BIG QUESTION, THE CRUX OF THIS POST:
What are Blur's best/worst set openers and closers (this is a Blur site, after all!)?
In my humble opinion, the absolute best opener they've ever had is Popscene. While they haven't opened with this since 1993 or so, in my mind it was the best opening song they ever used...it's incredibly energetic and exciting and gets everyone jumping from the get-go. The anticipation during Graham's flanged notes at the beginning before the entire band explodes into the song is just awesome. As far as closing songs, for me it's tied between two: This is a Low and The Universal. Both songs are slower paced, lending themselves to a bit of a gentler, but no less intense, comedown to mark the end of the show, which is no less powerful. However, each song has its distinct mood and effect; This is a Low is brooding and melancholy, burning slowly during the verses and exploding into the choruses...the final build-up to the solo and then the ending leaves everyone emotionally drained and happy. The Universal, on the other hand, while still melancholy in terms of subject matter, has a more triumphant feel, and the singalong chorus is a perfect way to send everyone off into the night on a high.
As far as worst ones? I think the worst opener (not counting instrumentals like Intermission, The Great Escape, Lot 105, The Debt Collector) they've used is Tender, which opened every 1999 show. I love Tender, I think it's a great song, but I think as an opener it's too slow, too quiet, and the effect of the great singalong potential is wasted as the show opener (to see how effective it can truly be when placed correctly in the middle of a set, see the shows from 2003, or especially 2009). As far as closing songs, my least favorite has to be Country House, which closed the main set in 1995/96...it's too cheery but not impactful enough to avoid being anti-climactic. And Song 2, which they used to close the encore sections in many 1997 shows, suffers from the same thing that plagued Tender...improper placement. Placed earlier in the show, it's impact is similar to that of Popscene.
So, what say you? What are you favorite and least favorite opening/closing songs from Blur??
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Since there have been recent rumblings that Blur may not ever record and/or tour again, it got me thinking, what are some of the Blur gigs you totally could have gone to see but didn't (for whatever various reasons)? We always talk about the great gigs we did see, but what about the "ones that got away?"
For me, I'll forever kick myself for not going to see them in New York City in 1999. They had announced only 3 North American shows in March/April 1999, one in LA, one in New York, and one in Toronto. Being in the Boston area at university at the time, I planned to go to the NYC show...I had tickets waiting for me at the Roseland Ballroom and had bought a bus ticket to get down there and back. However, I had a very important mid-term exam for a chemistry class coming up, and since chemistry was my major, I had to stay put to study and get a good grade on it. I remember my exact thought process was "oh well, next time, I'm sure they'll do a full tour later in the year." Of course, they didn't come back to the US *AT ALL* in 1999, and Graham left the band before they'd make another record and come back to tour. So I did see them on their next tour...four years later in 2003, sans Graham! While that was a great show, I always kick myself for missing the '99 one...to see them all together, playing the 13 album front to back...if I had a time machine, I'd go back and kick 19-yr old Drew's ass and make him go to the show!
What are the gigs you could have gone to, but didn't, and wish you had?
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Well, I think I've reached the time I knew would eventually come...the number and breadth of new Blur live recordings coming in to me has now, for the most part, stopped. For the last 6-7 years, I've been able to hunt down and acquire (and share out, mostly) dozens of newly unearthed recordings. Even within the last 3 years or so I've been able to discover the existence, and in most cases, obtain copies of, rare and unheard tapes. But it seems like I may have finally hit the wall, so to speak, and the supply has simply dried up.
I actually still know people who have many recordings, and a couple of them, who I consider friends, are doing me huge favors by working to get me copies. I'm waiting on those, and to my two friends I'm very grateful. But I also know (or know of) many other people scattered around the globe with another 20-40 tapes who simply can't be reached or aren't interested in sharing. And of course, I know of the existence of many more tapes, but not necessarily who has them.
I'm still working busily on the next Blur book, which I think will be really great and a huge upgrade/improvement on the first one, in terms of size, content, information, and format. The reason for this second book is because, while finishing and publishing the first one, I was still getting loads of new tapes, and in total there are more than 50 new shows/sources/recordings added to the second book. It makes sense to offer fans even more information, not to mentions the numerous corrections/additions, etc that resulted from more careful listening and fact-finding. However, unless I can bring in another serious haul of that size, I don't think it would make sense to update and add on to the book for a long time after the second one, if ever.
I'm not upset or angry at this situation, I want to make that clear and I hope no one misconstrues what I've written as such. I'm so happy to have been able to work on this and it only deepens my love for Blur and their music. The only emotion, other than joy, that this hobby/project of mine brings me, is a slight sadness that there are so many more amazing recordings from Blur on stage that we may simply never be able to hear, whether the tapes don't exist, are lost, damaged, or hidden away in someone's closet who does not want to share them. Blur played over 600 concerts between 1989 and 2009, and my collection, which I believe to be the largest in the world, has slightly over 200 distinct shows in it. So 33% of Blur's concert history is available on tape, while a whopping 66% is still out there, waiting to be discovered, listened to, enjoyed, analyzed, studied, dissected...
Have no worries! I will not be giving up collecting Blur...I'll always be on the hunt for new tapes and recordings and, unless instructed by the donors of said tapes, I will share what I can with all of you, my fellow Blur fans, time permitting. I'm a busy guy with a wife, 4 kids, a full-time job, and a VERY busy and fulfilling life, so I do the best I can with this site, the Facebook page, and the Twitter page, and I apologize if it frustrates you that I can't update as frequently as I'd like...it frustrates me, too! But I will continue to update here with new and (hopefully) interesting articles, photos, recordings, etc, and I hope you'll stick around and continue to engage in discussions and comments, feedback and suggestions, anecdotes and memories...perhaps the best thing about this entire endeavor are all of the great people I've met, online and in real life.
And of course, I have to say it, but if you have any Blur live recordings, I'd love to hear about them and swap for a copy...I'd love to add them to my personal collection, as well as my digital archive and the book project. I'd, of course, give you credit in the book and would honor whatever wishes you had for the tape in regards to circulating it or not. Feel free to contact me via email (find the address in my profile to the right of this page) to discuss this.
Keep checking back here, there'll always be some new stuff posted as I find the time to do it...cheers!