Thursday, August 23, 2012

TOUR REVIEW: 2012 Summer Tour

Since it's fresh in everyone's mind, having just ended a week ago, and I haven't done one of these tour review posts in a while, I thought this would be the perfect time to wrap up this summer's shows!

Blur surprised all of us when they announced at the Brit Awards in February 2012 that they'd be playing a massive show in London's Hyde Park to close out the 2012 Summer Olympics. Shortly after, they announced a short warm-up tour. The dates for the entire summer are listed below (available recordings in bold):

July 2012:

2nd - 13 Studios Rooftop, London, UK
31st - Maida Vale Studios, London, UK

August 2012:

1st - Winter Gardens, Margate, UK
2nd - 100 Club, London, UK
5th - Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, UK

6th - Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, UK
7th - Pavilion, Plymouth, UK
8th - Smukfest, Skanderborg, Denmark
9th - Way Out Festival, Gothenburg, Sweden
12th - Best of British Olympics Closing Concert, Hyde Park, London, England   

As you can see, nearly every concert is available in some form or other. The Hyde Park show was commercially released and the 100 Club gig will be commercially released in November. A friend taped the second night at Wolves and another friend taped the Way Out West show (both of which I should have to add to the book soon), and I recorded the rooftop, Maida Vale, and Hyde Park broadcasts myself. All we need is the Smukfest show and the entire tour will be available.

The typical set list for the shows was:

   Girls & Boys
   London Loves
   Tracy Jacks
   Coffee & TV
   Out Of Time
   Young & Lovely
   Sunday Sunday
   Country House
   Trimm Trabb
   The Puritan
   Song 2
   No Distance Left To Run
   This Is A Low


   Under The Westway
   End Of A Century
   For Tomorrow
   The Universal

Bugman, Oily Water, and Colin Zeal were all thrown in a handful of times (but not at every show) throughout the tour.

What was interesting about the tour is that, unlike 2009 where Blur played just the hits (albeit blindingly well), this time around they dug a bit deeper into their catalog. They introduced their two new songs, Under the Westway and The Puritan, playing them at every show (except for Hyde Park, where The Puritan was dropped). The brought Bugman back for the first time since 1999, Young and Lovely for the first time since 1999 (where it had its only time played lived anyway!), No Distance Left to Run for the first time since 2000, and London Loves for the first time since 1994. Additionally, the biggest surprises were the first time Mr. Briggs had been played live since the B-sides gig in 1999 (and before that, 1991) at the Maida Vale gigs, and Caramel, which had never been performed before. Blur went on to play it at every concert of 2012.

As far as the performances themselves, my personal opinion is that they played very tightly and powerfully and seemed to be much more comfortable and at ease with each other onstage, perhaps more so than they had since 1997. While I think the 2009 shows had a bit more fire (for instance, they're never going to top Glastonbury 2009 in any of their latter-day least, they haven't yet!), the confidence and swagger onstage was more noticeable this go around. In 2009, they seemed to be still getting a bit comfortable again with each other after the long layoff (6 years performing as a band, 9 years as a 4-piece). In 2012, they had that under their belts and were a bit more adventurous with the set list, digging back a bit for deeper album cuts and B-sides. While I would have liked to have seen some old, tired chestnuts retired (Parklife, Sunday Sunday, Jubilee) and perhaps some more rarer cuts, overall I can't fault much at all with the sets or their performances.

And their 2012 Hyde Park gig blows the 2009 gigs (which were still quite good) out of the water.

Whether this is the end of Blur or not remains to be seen. And honestly, as a second tour with no new album, I hope they don't come back again unless they're promoting a new album or at least an EP; I think the damage to the legacy, which they've completely avoided thus far, would be fairly significant were they to do a 3rd  round of shows playing only the old material. But if this is indeed the end (or at least a very long goodbye), they couldn't have gone out any more on top.

(And as always, if you've got tapes of any of the shows listed above, or any Blur tapes, email me privately and we'll work something out so I can add them to the forthcoming book. Thanks!)


  1. I was there up the front and as a heavy festival/gig goer I can honestly say : This was the best show I have ever been to. The energy and the emotion these guys put on stage was amazing. The set was also set for fans. The big classics where there, but like you mentioned, we had such pearls, which brought tears to my eyes...No Distance Left to Run,Young and Lovely,Intermission, Sing, Caramel...fabulous.Under the Westway was also great, but to me the peak was in the end. The Universal, sung by 75.000 people in the last verse of the song, as Damon watched us all with his watery eyes. When the last "just let them go" from the Universal was sung by the crowd, it seemed as if Damon himself was telling himself to let this part o his life go.That's what I felt at least, take a look when the video's out.Hope not.One last album, or even EP would do, the four of them together, for one last tour giving us their last new songs. Hope there's more. We'll see! But if this is the end, what a glorious one it was. Cheers!

  2. Thanks for sharing that memory! Even listening to the live broadcast it felt VERY special and they were on fire!

    How did you find the sound issues to be there? Was it as bad (and quiet) as everyone has been saying?

    It'd be a shame to come back without new material...I guess unless an official announcement is ever made that is confirmed by all 4 members, we'll have to settle in and wait to see what happens next over the coming years.

    1. To be honest, there were sound issues, yes. The first 6 songs were very silent, then after this the sound got better. This was the one point that didn't make it a perfect moment for me. A shame really. But even with this, to me, it was the best of my life. And I had watched themlive before in 1999 here in Brazil. But they seemed better than at hose times.

    2. It seems like it was really only the sound that held it from being absolutely perfect.

  3. I'm glad they focused more on 13 this time round, if only they played Swamp Song and 1992 would have been great. Makes me think about what might have been if Orbit hadn't been a total twat this year.
    Though i still think I they played better in 2009 they're just seemed to be a lot of errors esp. on Damons part and i really didn't like the inclusion of the backing singers, for me they ruined Caramel at times.
    Any idea why they choose Mr Biggs, out of all the bsides? I can understand the inclusion of Young and Lovey but Mr Briggs seems a weird choice, they didn't even include it in the B Sides show. Maybe it was included as a request by Lamacq.

  4. Mr. Briggs, good question. I had on good authority they heavily rehearsed Slow Down and Repetition for this summer's shows, too, as well as Es Schmect, so was a bit disappointed they didn't play those. I still think they relied too much on Parklife...the first 4 songs of every show were from that album. And Sunday Sunday and Parklife (the song) need to be put out of their misery. Overall, though, while the playing was better on the whole in 2009, these shows seemed more fun.

  5. Any chance that you would upload the way out west concert? I was there and it was my first time seeing blur live so i would love to hear it again!

    1. I would if I could! I know a fellow who has a friend who taped it, and he's trying to get me a copy, but no luck so far :-( As soon as I get it (if/when I do) I'll be sure to upload it, especially as I should have more time once my book is released.