Or: Why does a 46 year old man drive 274 miles in one night to see a band?
Today I find myself groggy and out of sync. Everything seems muffled and a little duller, the colours are muted and there’s an underlying hum, like a guitar amp left on low, an almost imperceptible electric hiss underlying everything. The weather, even now building into the muggy onset of a storm, is not to blame. No, last night I saw Blur.
Yesterday I left work sat in traffic for nearly two hours trying to get out of Birmingham and then shot up the A41 (to name but one road) to Llandudno. I don’t know a lot about Llandudno, I’ve only been there a few times, but it’s never struck me as a rock and roll town. With its Victorian promenade and four-story guest houses it looks more like the kind of place you’d take your aged aunt for a pot of tea and an iced bun, not somewhere you’d jump around for two hours whilst choking back the stench of other people’s sweat and the richly spiced gas that their pre gig snacks and drinks have evolved into.
Llandudno looked pretty good in the early evening sun, a vanilla glow covered the bay as middle-aged couples took in the sea air. I parked right outside The Venue (no, really, it’s called The Venue,) decided it was madness to join the queue that snaked away from the entrance for some ridiculous length down the road and walked into town. Llandudno continued to appear sedate and at peace with itself. I ordered a heroic portion of fish, chips and mushy peas, sat down and took in the world.
Blur took to the stage with a confidence and aggressive swagger that stripped the years away. Damon was a man possessed, his eyes feral, unblinking, taunting the crowd, pumping them up to breaking point. Graham was gripped with a boyish intensity, attacking his guitar in staggered blasts as his face lit up with delight. Alex strutted around the stage in a shirt and tie, his face a mask of cool aloofness that soon dissolved into beaming joy, whilst Dave pounded at the drums his face gurning out every beat, his tongue in danger of dragging his forehead over his eyes.
Don’t ask me what the first song was, I can’t remember. I didn’t go there to write a review. I didn’t go there to spend two hours stretching with my phone to get the perfect shot and obscure the view of everyone behind, (so ta for these pics Wales’ Daily Post,) or to start a fight with someone who was more beard than man (although that was tempting.) I went to see Blur and by God they were bloody good.
Go Out kicked things off (thanks again Daily Post, at least someone was taking notes) and was magnificent, firing the crowd up into a near hysterical fever of chanting and beer throwing. This was followed by a break neck speed There’s No Other Way. Two songs in and I was lost in a sea of joyous madness. The new songs were incredible, full of verve and confidence, such a pleasure to hear them with 2500 strangers.
The performance was electric. Blur stormed through songs from all their albums including seven from The Magic Whip,the highlight of which was Terracotta Heart the song that details Damon and Graham’s friendship, a friendship that is the heart of Blur. Coffee and TV was fun, Parklife expected as was Girls & Boys, I Broadcast almost took the roof off and The Universal had me close to tears at the end. The surprise of the evening was He Thought Of Cars, an album track from The Great Escape. In its recorded version its a pleasant enough experience a gentle enough refrain on globalisation -possibly? and yet, last night it was transformed into a snarling demonic beast that had the hairs on my hairs standing on end.
Tender and Song 2 had everyone by the throat and groin, a hall full of people swept away by the sheer, primitive magnificence of it all.
I left the gig buzzing. Stared at the sea for a bit and decided to drive home: there was no way I was sleeping after that.
And this is where I came in, I think: Why does a 46 year old man drive 274 miles in one night to see a band? Because they’re not just any old band, they’re Blur.
They’re the band I grew up with. They were there when I was an arsehole, when I was young and stupid, when my heart was broken, when my teeth were broken. They were there with me and my mates and they were there when my mates were gone, they were there when my mates came back. And that’s the key to this. They’re not a manufactured money machine or an ‘arty’ sneering experiment. They’re four friends who’ve grown up, grown apart, fallen out and then fallen back in again. They’re my band and I love them and fuck it, it’s only 274 miles.