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When * Damon Albarn* pumped his fists in the air just after walking onstage at the Brixton Academy, it suddenly dawned on me that Blur have nothing left to prove to anyone.
Face it; everyone expected this band to implode 12 months ago with the departure of * Graham Coxon*. We were all utterly convinced that Albarn’s crush on World Beat would mean that Blur would start producing music that even Paul Simon would’ve thrown in the toilet. And we were wrong.
This year Blur brought out one of their strongest albums to date, flipped off the critics, and have played a blinder of a tour so far. Every move they’ve made this year has furthered their reputation as the only band from the Cool Britannia boom of the mid-nineties, aside from Radiohead, to live up to their original promise. And last week Wednesday was no exception, in fact, they damn near tore the roof off the venue.
For starters, you can’t argue with a song catalogue like Blur’s. They’ve got a number for just about every mood you could think of, and most of them come armed with enough hooks to land Moby Dick. What band do you know that can churn a mosh pit (‘Song 2’, ‘We’ve Got A File On You’, ‘_Girls And Boys’, ‘Popscene’), make you shake your hips (‘Brothers And Sisters’, ‘On The Way To The Club_’), and then have you throwing your arm around the shoulder of a complete stranger as the pair of you sing along like best mates (‘End Of A Century’, ‘Bad Head’, ‘_The Universal_’) in the space of three songs?
Second, the action onstage demands your respect. Albarn is one of the most manic frontmen you’ll ever see live; * Dave Rowntree* plays drums like a god, and you won’t find a bassist anywhere that looks cooler than * Alex James*. The enthusiasm these guys have got is infectious, and if their energy fails to reach you, you don’t have bloody soul.
Yeah, I’ll admit it. There was a question looming over the entire performance; ‘Can they cut it live without Graham’? The answer is, yes and no. We all still miss Graham. I lost count of the number of times my eyes swung to the left side of the stage expecting to see that bespectacled figure making his guitar bleed, only to see * Simon Tong* playing his little heart out. Although he was note-perfect, he doesn’t cut the same figure as Coxon.
But what’s interesting is how comfortable Blur look as a trio. The jury’s still out on whether Coxon will be forever missed, or if by their next album, he’ll be just a memory. Point is, even without Coxon, and even with a couple of hitches, Blur are capable of playing triumphant show. By the time * Phil Daniels* pitched up onstage for 'Parklife', everyone in that venue was eating out of their hands.
There are always going to be people who loath Blur. People who believe that they’ll never be as good without Coxon. Who hate Damon Albarn and his Mali Music. Who’ll never forgive them for Fat Les and 'Country House'. If these fools want to miss out on one of the best bands in Britain, let ‘em. To them, I say, ‘Fine! You just keep hating them. All it means is that there’s a little more room in any venue they play for me’.
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