What a long strange trip it has been for Britpop legends Blur. Tonight after 20 plus years as a band, they finally made it to the music mecca Madison Square Garden. To say this night was long overdue is an understatement.
For the first time in a long, long time the opening act for us was one not to miss in Courtney Barnett. The white t-shirt wearing, Joan Jett look alike Aussie was well worth the abbreviated pre game bar session. If you have not listened to her debut album “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” (sure to be in our top 50 of 2015), we highly suggest you check it out. Courtney proved that rock was not just for the boys, and for her finale she thrashed through her standout track “Pedestrian at Best” which has one of the best choruses we’ve heard in a long time.
put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint
you tell me I’m exceptional and I promise to exploit you
give me all your money and I’ll make some origami honey
I think you’re a joke but I don’t find you very funny
As expected, the Garden was probably a 1/4 full for Barnett’s opening performance. But after running to the bathroom and grabbing a few adult beverages, I was shocked to see the Garden filled to capacity. The question of whether Blur could sell out MSG had been definitively answered some 15 minutes to showtime.
Blur took the stage to raucous cheers and it was easy to see this meant a lot to the Brits. They quickly went in to their standout track “Go Out” from this years album Magic Whip (Spoiler Alert: Top 50 album of 2015). Damon quickly gauged the NYC crowd’s sing along skills with the chorus from “Go Out” We going to the Loo-ahh-ooo-ah-ooo-ooo-cal. The crowd was up to Damon’s early challenge, setting the tone for a night of great crowd participation.
The energy of Blur, and in particular lead singer Damon Albarn, was infectious. Damon spent most of the night jumping and leaping on stage while dousing the front row in what seemed like an endless supply of water bottles. One spray might have went astray as he seemed to lean in to an individual crowd member to apologize.
Throughout the night Blur mixed in older tracks with tunes from Magic Whip. To their credit they didn’t really push the new songs on the crowd, only playing 4. They managed to perfectly balance the newer tunes from Magic Whip with a steady dose of classic hits.
Blur also paid attention to where so many bands miss the mark. They spared no expense in having a long line of backup singers and a full horn section. Having this extra, makes a world of difference.
The surprise performance of the night was “Country Sad Ballad Man” from their only hit US album, the self titled Blur (1997). Damon announced they had not played the song in a very long time and had much of the crowd singing and bouncing along in approval.
The highlight of their performance was the six song set that led to their encore break. “Tender” proved that US audiences could sing along with anyone else in the world. The “oh my baby” chant would echo loud and true through the arena, with most fans hoping it would just keep going and going.
Throughout the week there were rumblings of who might show up to “sing” the main verses of “Parklife”. Supposedly Mike Myers had turned down the chance to sing it dressed as Austin Powers (damn). Fred Armisen from SNL and Portlandia fame who had sung it in LA was also unavailable. Ultimately a group of young fans joined Blur on stage to try their best. Damon seemed to be hoping for the best, but expecting the worst as a young gal grabbed the mic. To his delight, as well as the audience’s, she made it through the first verse as good as you could expect from a plucked audience member. See for yourself.
From there they played the sporting anthem “Song 2”. Everyone did their best grunge rock dance and gave it their all in the “Whooo Hoooo’s”. Great moment to see Blur finally playing the tune that put them on the map in the US, even if it was almost 20 years past its release.
“To The End” followed and you would be hard pressed to find a more appropriate or poignant moment as Damon belted the chorus “It looks like we’ve might have made it!!!” Blur most definitely had made it, and there was more to come.
The encore opened with a ho hum performance of “Stereotypes”. After that it was pedal to the metal. The campy “Boys and Girls” was perfectly situated here as all inhibitions had been tossed aside and everyone was reveling in what was known to be the last couple of songs.
After another great sing along to “For Tomorrow” and the crowd was sure they were getting close to wrapping up the night. From the opening bars of “The Universal” everyone confirmed their fears, this was it. As though the lyrics were written for this moment, Blur and the crowd sang along “It really, really, really could happen!”. After 20 plus years it really, really did happen, Blur played a sold out Madison Square Garden and delivered. One more great line summed up the night for both Blur and the crowd that had been waiting so long to see them at such a great US venue, “Well here’s your lucky day…it really, really could happen”. For Blur and their fans it did happen, finally and it was well worth the wait.
There’s No Other Way
End of a Century
Coffee & TV
Out of Time
Country Sad Ballad Man
Thought I Was a Spaceman
To the End
This Is a Low
Girls & Boys