Thursday, May 19, 2011
Openers and Closers
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??