Blur live at the
20 October 2015
Los Angeles Times
Blur lovingly sends up L.A. in its
long-awaited Hollywood Bowl show
Image courtesy of
Blur’s “Parklife” is one of the most
essentially English rock singles ever put to tape. But during Tuesday
night’s show at the Hollywood Bowl, the band revisited the rambling 1994
tune with an appropriately L.A. twist.
The band brought out comedian Fred
Armisen to update the song — originally a jaundiced ode to London city
life — into a loving indictment of California yuppies.
“This song could be about Griffith
Park, or Echo Park,” Armisen said as he took the mic in a white suit.
Then came a torrent of riffs on cold-pressed juices, fitness crazes and
a schedule where “I go to the dog park, and then I go to the cat park.”
It was beyond funny, and proved that
Blur’s fundamentally British wit and affections are actually pretty
Blur is on a rare tour in support of
its latest (and quite good) album “The Magic Whip.” Los Angeles fans may
have caught them at Coachella a few years ago, going back-to-back with
the Stone Roses as a double-bill headliner (where Blur was widely
regarded as the superior set).
Singer Damon Albarn isn’t one for
nostalgia. He has an almost unbelievable range of projects — his
animated band Gorillaz, a couple of acclaimed operas, a global-music
record label and a solo career among them — to keep him looking forward.
But Blur’s Tuesday night set had
incandescent glow evoking that prime era of mid-'90s British rock, when
his bleary yet witty lyrics spilled over Graham Coxon’s slashed-up
guitar lines, and Albarn’s wide interest in gospel, African and
electronic music added depth and adventure to the night.
The band, joined by a small troupe of
backing vocalists, horn section and keyboardists, covered the waterfront
on their catalog. They started out with the droll and mock-rousing lead
single “Go Out” from “Magic Whip,” but then explored the rest of that
album’s distinct sort of urban isolation.
“Lonesome Street” paired a Beatles-y
spaciness with crunchy '90s indie-punk, while “Thought I Was a Spaceman”
dipped deep into the band’s ear for contemporary electronic
arrangements. “Ghost Ship,” an album standout, evoked the band’s
recording time in Hong Kong — “I’m on a ghost ship drowning my heart in
Hong Kong …. Feeling out of body here, what can I do?” — with a
soulfulness that suggested not all who wander through Asian
megalopolises are lost.
Albarn can sometimes be flinty, but at
the Bowl he ambled around stage in high spirits as Blur played a
generous round of catalog staples. The bluesy and gospel-infused
“Tender” was a rare crack in the band’s cockeyed humor, with a simple
chorus of “Love’s the greatest thing” landing with total, believable
sincerity (though of course, he followed it up with a funny musical ad
lib about ending Donald Trump's electoral career).
Later on, the hook from “Girls & Boys”
again landed as one of most ingenious songwriting conceits of modern
pop-rock, and drew every last one of the Bowl crowd (many of whom had
had a few preemptory pints to celebrate the occasion) out of their
seats, where they stayed for all of the regal and gracious closer “The
Even earlier at the obligatory “Song
2,” still Blur’s best known hit in America despite it being an ironic
sendup of U.S. grunge of the time, Albarn introduced it with a
beleaguered good cheer. He paraphrased a U.S. customs agent: “‘So,
you’re in a band, what’s your name?’ ‘Blur.’ ‘Never heard of you.’ ‘Do
you know … "Woo-hoo?”' '“Oh yeah!”
“So,” he added, returning to address
the Bowl. “Would you like to Woo-hoo?”
They did, indeed.