I saw Blur four times when they were at the height of their powers – once on the Parklife tour, twice on The Great Escape, and once on Blur – and Parklive, the band’s new two-disc set chronicling their performance in Hyde Park following the closing of the Olympic ceremonies, sounds a lot like those shows did. Lead singer Damon Albarn is winded from all of his onstage acrobatics, drummer Dave Rowntree plays everything 20% faster than the studio version, Graham Coxon’s guitar is grittier, even on the non-gritty songs, and Alex James’ bass is…there. I remember those shows really fondly – especially that Parklife show, because Pulp was the opening act, score – but if I’m being honest, the experience of seeing Blur live trumped their abilities as performers. This is Parklive‘s biggest problem: you can’t see how much fun everyone, audience included, is having.
There are exceptions to this though, even on CD. “Parklife” positively rocks, as does their souped-up “Popscene.” The set list they chose for the set is nearly perfect – they even pulled out an old B-side called “Young and Lovely,” in tribute to their children – and Damon has some nice interactions with the crowd. Our recommendation, then, is to opt for the Parklive DVD instead. That way, you get to share the audience’s thrill at seeing Blur for might be one of the last times ever. You also get to watch Damon doing his trademark jump, Coxon shred his slide guitar on an incendiary version of “Sunday Sunday,” and tens of thousands of people dancing, singing, and waving their arms with unfettered joy, especially when the band rips into “Song 2” and every single concertgoer is screaming “Woo hoo!” at the top of their lungs. It’s intoxicating to watch.
So yes, Blur in concert is something that you really have to see with your own eyes. Barring that, the DVD of Parklive will do nicely.