Thursday, August 23, 2012
TOUR REVIEW: 2012 Summer Tour
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):
2nd - 13 Studios Rooftop, London, UK
31st - Maida Vale Studios, London, UK
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
Coffee & TV
Out Of Time
Young & Lovely
No Distance Left To Run
This Is A Low
Under The Westway
End Of A Century
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 shows...at 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!)