EMI, 2012

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Resembling nothing so much as a love letter to fans, the double-disc Parklive is a comprehensive overview of Blur’s 20 years in the business and a reminder of why they are so beloved in the first place.

The show was recorded in Hyde Park on the final day of the 2012 London Olympics; Blur headlined the concert. From the outset, the fans are loud, singing the words and cheering lustily, lending the performance a kinetic energy that carries the music.

Although the 25 songs span Blur’s career, the vast majority are taken from the mid-‘90s heyday, specifically Parklife, with three to four songs each taken from Modern Life Is Rubbish and Blur and pretty much skipping The Great Escape. Filling this out are a handful of rarities (“London Loves,” the excellent “Popscene,” the tender “Young And Lovely”) and a new song, “Under The Westway.” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Rather than dipping into the arty and/or psychedelic flourishes, the band mostly focuses on playing upbeat, very British rock and pop. Certainly, no other band can carry the mantle of Mott The Hoople and The Kinks like these guys. This approach occasionally has limited appeal, rendering some of the songs faceless, but everything is good fun and played with such muscular energy that you’ll find yourself bobbing your head to album tracks like “Jubilee” and “Tracy Jacks.”

The proceedings briefly turn political when Damon Albarn introduces Iranian-born oud player Khyam Allami, who was evidently not allowed to participate in the Olympics because of the situation in his country, but who guests on the dark “Out Of Time,” one of the few times Blur dips into its moody, art-rock side. This is then followed by “Young And Lovely,” which Albarn dedicates to the band’s children, and a blazing version of the instrumental “Trimm Trabb.” This sequence is the highlight of the first disc, along with the breathless, punkish “Parklife,” trading attitude for the sardonic musings of the studio version.

“Popscene” remains the greatest Blur song and is given wonderful treatment here, coming off far better than a surprisingly dull “Song 2,” the song most Americans know because of the “woo-hoo!” part (which the crowd handles here). “Advert” is another powerful highlight; it, along with “Popscene,” is enough to put a lot of Britpop bands half Blur’s age to shame.

“Sing” is proof that Blur can do epic, while “Under The Westway” and “End Of A Century” bring the emotional punch expected of 20 years making music and living a full life. These and the life-affirming “The Universal” bring the proceedings to a triumphant close, ending two hours of mostly great music and reestablishing Blur as not only a British national treasure, but one of the great and often-overlooked rock bands of the last two decades. As a love letter to fans or an introduction for neophytes, you can’t do much better than Parklive.

Rating: A-

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