I will start by saying that I’m glad we got to Hyde Park relatively early as the park once again seemed to be completely overwhelmed by the number of people the organisers had decided to sandwich in for the day. We arrived at 1:30pm and still found ourselves pitched up quite far from the stage. That said the vibe in the park was pretty electric and a lot of the Olympic goodwill had unquestionably spilled over into the Closing Celebration Concert (not be to confused with the actually closing ceremony, which apparently featured Jessie J screeching along to Queen).
The actual musical programme, so to speak, kicked off at about 4:30 with Bombay Bicycle Club. During the set I discovered that I actually knew one Bombay Bicycle Club song, which was nice. With their overall mostly summery, Vampire Weekend-y kind of sound they were a good match for the mid-afternoon – sunshiney and not requiring too much concentration. I found Jack Steadman’s smiley delivery of all his lyrics, quite endearing but not everyone in my group was as forgiving, I remember someone referring to him as “looking a bit simple”. Despite their set list varying massively in song quality, they were enjoyable enough – I might even try to find out what that song I know is called…
We were surprised that New Order was up next, as we expected that they’d be second-to-last on the bill, but considering that they are looking quite old, they might have needed an early night. I don’t think I can quite call their delivery energetic but they have a wonderful universally dancey quality that means you don’t actually have to know any of their songs to be able to join in and by the time they played True Faith and Blue Monday most of the audience had been swept up and were happily dancing, just like the old Ibiza days. They cemented an excellent set by finishing with Love Will Tear Us Apart and I will admit getting serious goose bumps when dear Ian Curtis appeared on the back drop. I would like to know what Bernard Sumner was up to though since he kept interfering with everyone else’s equipment.
If you’re going to see The Specials, I think you’re going to expect them to play Ghost Town, so when they finished their set without playing it there was a collective sigh of disheartenment from most of the crowd, and particularly the kids next to us, who decided to do their own rendition. It’s hard not to bear that in mind when considering the whole set. I loved that they played Monkey Man and A Message To You, Rudy but the set felt like it dragged a bit and was possibly a little bit inaccessible to non-fans. Not that it was bad, because I mean, ska is always fun, it just didn’t have the same impact as the New Order set.
When it came to Blur’s arrival, on a set that made them look like they were playing under an underpass, it was suddenly very evident that the sound just wasn’t cutting it. We were probably in the front third of the audience and struggling to really hear. I can imagine that the people at the very back must have been a bit disappointed, but then as I’ve said many times before, a park is a terrible place for a gig.
Shoddy sound aside, it’s hard to fault Blur. They have an extremely wide range of fans to accommodate – from ubergeeks like my B-side collecting husband, to the French bloke behind me singing the chorus of Country House at the top of his lungs. Getting together a set list that would satisfy everyone must have been a quite a challenge and from the perspective of what I suppose could be classified as a mid-range fan, one that they rose to. The uber-fans got their B-sides and random tracks off 13 and Think Tank, the tourists got Girls & Boys and Parklife (with real live Phil Daniels and Harry Enfield, inexplicably dressed as a tea lady) and I got No Distance Left to Run and End of a Century.
After recent questions about Damon Albarn’s vocal ability, last night it was evident that he’d put the work in and both the very old and the very new sounded good. His humility and adoration for the city of London and all things British was both touching and galvanising and I think a lot of people had a little cry during Tender. There is no question that Blur is still very much alive and kicking and I am grateful to them for letting me realise a dream that my fifteen year-old Britpop loving self never could have imagined possible. Now let’s just hope they stay that way. I’m off to buy Under The Westway.