I was there for the first of two dates at Hyde Park and before I continue with this I just want to mention an - anomaly. When the dates were first announced it was billed as the 'reunion gig'. 'Exciting', 'Momentous' - all the sort of words associated with the return of Blur. Luckily I wasn't one of those huge fans who snapped up a few of the 55,000 tickets for the first announced date - Friday 3 July. Why lucky? Well, once that sold out, they added a second date - on Thursday, the day before.
It's all fine and dandy adding the second date to accommodate the demand for tickets, and presumably this was an option from the beginning, but it completely negated the original premise. I think those who immediately bought tickets were given the raw end of the deal because all of a sudden they were getting sloppy seconds. Then, to make matters worse, Blur have their official premier at Glastonbury - before both Hyde Park dates. So, the Friday people who bought tickets first were now getting sloppy thirds and Thursday people, sloppy seconds. I find that aspect really strange and as I said, if I were a huge fan, I wouldn't have been too pleased.
When I say I'm not a huge fan, I'm not saying they are just 'OK' and 'I can take them or leave them'. That's not the case at all. I think they are wonderfully talented and fall within my definitions of great bands. My definition of a great band? A band that sound like no one else. You immediately know who it is within a few notes, even without any prompting or intro. Other bands are compared to them, not the other way around. Of course as with all bands, you can occasionally hear influences, but when you hear Blur, you know it's Blur. It's the combination of voice, guitar, drums, bass, songs and arrangements and they sound like no one else.
I think I've said enough about the band, we all know how popular and loved they are so there really isn't much I can add to what has already been printed and discussed. What I haven't seen discussed or written about is what it's like being in a venue that large, with that many people, on a hot, hot, hot day so here it goes...
I got my ticket from a friend so I didn't have it on me to refer to the rules. I was wondering what the policy was regarding bottles and the like because as many of us know, there have been many instances of bringing a bottle of water only to have it confiscated under the no bottles or outside food law invented to force you to pay exorbitant prices once inside. I didn't want to take a chance so I brought nothing but a battery powered hand fan and a baseball cap, just in case, because as I said before, it was hot, hot, hot, hot. When we passed through security, which consisted of a brief look into bags and a quick squeeze on the bottom (of the bags!!) we were through, and I did see bins of discarded water bottles so I thought that answered my question.
So we're in. Without the throngs of people (it was still early-ish) it resembled a country fair. What I think used to be a grassy field looked more like what a barn would look like once you removed all the bales of hay. Lining both sides were numerous eating places - Mexican, four different burger outlets, Thai and Chinese food and of course the beer tent. We went there first, for me it was to get water (£2 for a small bottle). Good on the organisers though for providing free drinking water (next to the toilets - fragrant!) where you could refill your bottle.
We found a small patch to set up camp and tried to stay cool. It was so hot, my battery powered hand fan was only blowing hot air. I really wished we had real grass (grass that wasn't dead) to sit on instead of that hay. I think others would have hoped for the same as we all had hay remnants on our clothes and most unappealing were the numerous bum cracks with hay, due to the long slung trouser look.
One of the support bands were on (we missed the first one. Then there were the Crystal Castles (or Crystal Castle?) which I found irritating and pretentious - they sounded as if they were using a Kraftwerk backing track - then some other band as Friendly Fires pulled out - one of those Killers, Coldplay type of bands - and then Foals who I would have sworn were performing old Gang of Four demos). The people next to us pulled out this huge picnic - containers of fruit, guacamole, drinks - how did they get that stuff in? Of course this inspired my friends go in search of food. One came back with a £6.25 plate of Thai chicken on rice, the other got a Japanese vegetarian dish for almost £7. I saw a few Dominoes Pizza boxes go by and was told that there was a Dominoes stand, but I wasn't willing to pay £17 for a medium marguerita or pepperoni pizza nor was I prepared to pay £5 for a slice. I had an ice lolly.
Now to the Blur performance. Everyone stood up and there was plenty of room around us all. We were about halfway back so had to watch both the large screens and the stage. Here is where I started having problems. I have to wonder about people in general and what they consider a good time. First, there was the person way down nearer the front who made a flag out of what looked like an orange boiler suit and was waving it with glee, through the whole show. Why? Then there were the numerous bottles (all plastic, all with liquid still inside) that were thrown all over the place. It began to look like a bottle attack at one point. Lovely. Moving on to the two blond girls standing behind us, dressed as if they would be spotted by the band, who proceeded to scream and shout 'I love you Damon!' to the back of our heads. Now remember, we were in a crowd of 55,000 people, halfway back from the stage. Does this sound sane? I almost turned around to tell then ' you know he can't hear or see you'. It wasn't soon before we had the frantic dancing (if you could call it that) while wearing a full back pack. It became a battle to remain standing upright as the bags would push you every which way. We also had to contend with the continous flow of people plowing through the crowd from all directions - going to the front, coming from the front, to the right, to the left, all while this 'momentous occasion' was happening on the stage.
Finally, as the show went on and the sun left our weary heads, things sort of balanced themselves out. I looked around and noticed there were definite pockets of people who, like us, were there to enjoy Blur and had to contend with the drunken and insane minions that surrounded us. It does make you ask - why do all these people pay £45 to see a show then talk to and show off for their friends, pass out or just be plain stupid? Who knows.
After the show, we stayed and queued for merchandise - well, my friends queued, I gave them money for a bag and waited in less crowded surroundings. They ran out of posters so we had to go to another stand and queue there. I have to say the merchandise was pretty reasonably priced (with the exception of the £5 disposable Blur lighter).
All in all I still enjoyed the show, mostly after things settled down, and am glad I went. Will I go to another gig in Hyde Park? It would have to be someone I can't see anytime else. But I did say the same thing after going to Live 8. I guess that says something about Blur.