My last Blur gig – so far! – was a stunning, end-of-an-era extravaganza.
2003 was a year packed with so many musical highlights for me that it seems astonishing to reflect upon now. So many bands that I loved were on the form of their life, and none more so than Blur. “Think Tank” remains to this day at the top of my personal Blur albums rankings, challenged only by “Modern Life Is Rubbish”, and it was wonderful to see out my gigging year in their company.
I don’t have much of a report to go on for this gig, however. This first week of December 2003 was my third gig-packed week in a row, and I was feeling the toll. So I only had the energy to scribble a few paragraphs in my diary when I got home. But what I did write shows just how impactful this gig had been, even to me, a moderately fair-weather Blur fan. From my diary:
‘Blur are so FANTASTIC.
“To the end”. Damon was at the barrier, singing, clasping the hands of people at the front. Not in a rock god touching the masses way, but as though greeting a friend, sharing a moment. It was kind of beautiful. I got a bit tearful. He’d made some sort of announcement after “Girls and Boys” about not ever playing certain songs again, and there did seem to be a kind of finality, end-of-an-era atmosphere. If I were a Blur obsessive, I’m sure it would have been a highly emotional gig. Even as a Blur casual it was pretty stunning. Lord only know what the next two nights will be like.
They did songs from every era – even “She’s So High” and “Sing” from the first album and a punkin’ “Advertisement” from the second, thru the mid-nineties Britpop-type tunes, to now, and I was reminded once again of what a mighty back catalogue they have. But recent songs were some of the best, especially a dark and jagged version of “Out Of Time” and a totally mad and groovey “Music Is My Radar”. Wonderful band. Wonderful.’
And it turned out there was a reason for this end-of-an-era atmosphere. Following this tour, Blur disbanded for several years, not to reunite until 2009. And by that point I was deep in my 30s and barely paying attention to the bands who had soundtracked my youth.
So, for now, my Blur gig memories end here in December 2003. But this band remain an immense part of my musical life. Any music fan who, like me, came of age in the 90s, will have had the music of Blur weaving through their youth leaving an indelible mark, and I am no exception.
I remember being 16 years old in Australia in 1991, watching Rage, and marvelling at these intriguingly pretty boys in the strangely surreal video to “There’s No Other Way”; how hearing “For Tomorrow” in 1993 intensified my need to escape to London; watching the Blur vs Oasis wars from afar in 1995; finally being in London in 1997 and hearing the scratchy, aching chords of “Beetlebum” and the pogoing punk lunacy of “Song 2” on Radio 1; and, in 1999, swaying towards the end of the millennium with the gloriously sad yet optimistic strains of “Tender” in my ears. No other band soundtracked the 90s quite as completely as Blur did.
Sadly, here in 2020, the band are on hiatus yet again. However, it’s hard to believe that they will stay apart forever, and I feel that it’s probable that I will get my chance to stride out to my fourth Blur gig sometime in the next few years – of course, pandemics permitting. Until then, I have my memories of these three gigs – the brilliantly uplifting Brixton Academy show in December 1997, the raucous and moving Astoria show in May 2003, and this one, where I was privileged to witness the end of an era for one of the most wonderful bands of my lifetime.