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Blur: Caught live in Brighton (December 2003)


Review: Jack Foley

BLUR rounded off a brilliant year with a rousing concert in Brighton on Thursday, December 11, which marked the penultimate date in a very long tour.

Having first caught up with them at the Astoria in May this year, following the release of their brilliant album, Think Tank, it was refreshing to note that the set they produced in Brighton was a slightly different, if not more quirky, one than the London crowd-pleaser.

And while Damon Albarn’s voice showed signs of wear and tear during some of the more difficult vocal moments, and a microphone stand kept getting in the way of the frontman’s stage positioning, this was another quality turn, which served as a timely Christmas present to their dedicated fans.

In terms of set-list, too, this was one which rewarded the more committed fanatics, rather than those who merely buy the singles.

Hence, the highlights included a rare live outing for the brilliant Sing (played at the start of the encore), and equally rare outings for Bad Head, To The End, and She’s So High (which Damon confessed was the single that ‘did it for him’ with Justine Frischmann, of Elastica fame).

As Blur fans know, only too well, that long-term relationship ended painfully, so it was little surprise to find Tender cropping up shortly afterwards on the set-list, but played with relish and on the biggest scale. The memories may still hurt, but it didn’t prevent the track becoming one of the feelgood moments of the evening.

Strong, too, were the new tracks, taken from Think Tank, which exemplify how the band have progressed from happy-go-lucky indie rockers, to thoughtful, well-rounded musicians.

The gig kicked off with Ambulance, the deeply moody opening track from Think Tank, in which Albarn claims he has nothing to be afraid of; before taking in the album tracks, Brothers and Sisters, Gene By Gene and Jets.

Needless to say, it was during such moments that ex-Verve guitarist, Simon Tong, looked most comfortable, free from the restraints imposed by Graham Coxon’s intricate riffs, but one still has to tip their hat to the way in which he has applied himself to recreating them live, seldom appearing afraid to dip into a comprehensive back catalogue, and emerging with considerable credit.

Albarn, too, appeared up for it, despite a nightmare train journey (taken on a whim), and the less than supportive sound systems and stage equipment. Always a lively performer, he entered the crowd on a couple of occasions, while also commanding them to get into the spirit of the evening, at various highpoints (such as the obligatory likes of Girls and Boys and Song 2).

Yet this was much more about the quieter stuff, and was, quite possibly, the most restrained I have seen Blur. And while the demands of such an expansive tour have obviously taken their toll, and the Brighton venue isn’t the best in terms of atmosphere and acoustics, they made it one for the connoisseur to really appreciate.

Of the innumerable highlights, a rousing version of We've Got A File On You, as well as the slow-building Trimm Trabb, and the quietly pleasing Good Song, Beetlebum and For Tomorrow served to really give the crowd what they were seeking - a little bit of everything.

The main bulk of the concert may have ended with This Is A Low (from Parklife), but the night, as a whole, provided a number of highs. Blur ensured that 2003 will be remembered as a vintage.

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