Release Date: Dec 4, 2012
Record label: Virgin
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock
Blur have spent most of 2012 toying with our heartstrings. First Damon Albarn announced that, after a performance at the Olympic Closing Ceremony Concert in Hyde Park, the long-lived, notoriously volatile band would be calling it a day. A few weeks later Albarn backpedaled and said that wasn't necessarily the case ("Some days I feel one way and other days I feel the other.").
Sound and vision live bonanza; improved audio is the icing on the Hyde Park memorial cake…Last spring, following his Twitter comments early in the year concerning Blur’s “amazing” work in the studio on new material, producer William Orbit announced that Damon Albarn had unexpectedly pulled the plug on recording sessions. The hearts of the eternally hopeful sagged, despite the fact that there had never been any confirmation from the band that they were embarking on an album. The release in early July of “Under The Westway” and “The Puritan” – two of only three new tracks recorded since 2003 – was very likely no more or less than what Blur had planned; that is, a teaser for their headlining set in Hyde Park on August 12 to mark the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics.
Blur headlined a Brit-pop blowout at Hyde Park on the final day of the London 2012 Olympic games, a concert that not so coincidentally also capped off a flurry of Blur-related activity. The band celebrated its 21st anniversary in grand fashion, reissuing its catalog as deluxe double-disc sets, boxing these deluxe editions in a mammoth rarities-laden box set called Blur 21, releasing a good reunion single in "Under the Westway"/"The Puritan," and, finally, performing this concert, releasing it digitally the following week as the double-album Parklive (which is due to be expanded into a five-CD box later in the year). Given the amount of time the reunited Blur spent trawling through their back pages, it's not much of a surprise that the set list of Parklive is constructed as a chronicle of their past, one that touches lightly on their beginnings and end -- there's one song apiece from Leisure and Think Tank -- one that accentuates two through-lines in their history: the churning, darkly psychedelic art rock band and the proudly patriotic, albeit wildly sardonic, British pop group.
From the outset, some bands – the most talented ones, at least – have a choice. They can focus on creating Serious Art, which may not bring them much financial reward or mainstream success, but offers the twin-engine promise of looking cool to Real Music Lovers and not appearing to have sold out by appealing to the masses. Or they can try – as Alex James often asserted in days past – to be the ‘best band in the world’.
Blur were cagey chaps in 2012. This gig in Hyde Park, performed while the Olympics closed across town, was rumoured to be their last, adding a sense of occasion to an event which was dramatically oversold and criminally under-amplified due to a combination of noise restrictions and greed. But no matter on this 2-CD document of the event, which covers Blur’s multi-faceted output over the 25-song gig.