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Blur live at the Marquee, New York City
1 November 1991
Reviewed by The New York Times

Audience Participation In Reverie and Dancing

The groups in the newest wave of English bands often have names like Lush, or Blur, or Slow Dive, names that imply some sort of extremity or a manipulation of the senses. The groups play music that, gauzy and wavelike, reproduces a type of ecstatic experience; words are secondary to the whispers of melody that their singing produces. And though the bands make the music with guitars, bass and drums, it's often disembodied and ethereal, treated with electronics. The music allows dissonances to hide in chords that move slowly from tonality to tonality; clouds of metallic overtones billow as if blown by wind. Since the bands keep their rock posture -- they play guitars, dress casually -- with all the implications of a local poverty-stricken scene, the music is the triumph of small-scale, affordable technology.

Slow Dive and Blur made it to the Marquee on Friday night and the bands produced radically different sets. Slow Dive opened the show, and the band members just stood there. Using 2 or 3 guitars, including a 12-string, the group produced huge, shimmering exhalations of sound. Though the music appeared to stand still at times, with sung melodies creeping along lengthened by electronic delay, and the guitar puffs seemingly static, the group's drummer kept a faster tempo going. Not much happened in the music; the duration of each piece stretched out, with hardly any major rhythmic, harmonic or textural change and there were no solos. It's interior music, music that allows listeners to participate as individuals involved in their own reverie.

Blur closed the show, and where Slow Dive had the audience standing still, watching, Blur turned the floor of the club into a slam-dancing and stage-diving platform. The band, though it has its share of psychedelic influences, also rocks out, having learned to make each individual instrument take up its own pattern. It's rock that's danceable, and the band, wildly energetic -- the group's lead singer climbed into the balcony, and swung from the building's rafters -- encouraged a different sort of extremity, where emotion and energy were poured into participating.

The group's drummer constantly embellished basic rhythms, while the bassist kept steady, thick bass lines; feedback tore through the songs as did white noise. Blur has songs, and at times the group's performance would be a fight between the group's pop intentions, where hooks and melodies struggled against the onslaught of noise and rhythms. The band did several tunes from its recent record "Leisure," including "There's No Other Way" and "She's So High" that had the audience singing and slam dancing until the songs opened up into the next plain of electronic sound, all pushed along by furious drumming.

Peter Watrous

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