Blur, Hyde Park, London
From the moment early single 'She's So High' starts it is apparent tonight is going to be off the scale.Read more on Blur Listen to Blur on Spotify
After tentative but triumphant lowkey shows, to conquering Glastonbury like knights in shining armour, Blur play the very first gig that was announced when the reunion finally happened. The constant rumours preceding it became tiresome to anyone but the ardent fan to be brutally honest, but the hype that surrounded the eventual announcement showed there was something spectacular brewing. It had been nearly a decade since Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree had played together onstage, with Coxon finally quitting in 2002. Who knows the reasons behind it, but the time would prove be right, and now the fans who booked the first gig announced, would be the last to see them on English soil this year (so far anyway).
Florence And The Machine, Amadou and Mariam and Vampire Weekend are superb support choices for the day-long event, the latter two creating a gorgeous summery vibe that dispelled the predicted rain and kept the thousands bathed in sunshine. Even mother nature was on our side today. The rain showed no chance of happening even when the sun was low, and Blur came onstage dot on 8.15pm.
From the moment early single 'She's So High' starts it is apparent tonight is going to be off the scale - the collective love from the crowd is electric and overwhelming. The four members of Blur look and sound astonishingly youthful - it was like a day hadn't passed since the days of 'Parklife', with the mop-haired chaps bouncing around the stage in their Fred Perry garb, full of boyish charm. From such a back catalogue, it becomes almost impossible to select a defining, shining moment, but 'Girls And Boys' may be it. So when it appears so early in the set it's a wild moment. Did they peak too early? Not a chance. An onslaught of the finest British music is taken from the vinyl in the bedroom into the massive park and one big party. The timeless 'There's No Other Way' and 'Badhead' - Blur's greatest single that never was - show the shift from youthful exuberance effortlessly into deeply moving guilt and regret. A brass section fills out the sound live to do it justice. And we haven't even reached 'Tender' yet... Albarn takes up his acoustic guitar alongside Coxon's electric and the pair simply lead Hyde Park in a giddying euphoric singalong. It's worth noting how completely natural and effortless the four of them are on stage, it's like they've never been away, but they've also restored the vigour of a band not yet jaded. The genuine joy onstage from a group who may have always seemed a tad smug about their undoubted songwriting genius was moving - Damon Albarn is visibly in awe of the crowd as the sun sets.
Phil Daniels is on hand for a boisterous 'Parklife', but we are brought to our knees with 'This Is A Low', begging Albarn to please put our heartstrings back. He was never the world's greatest singer, but it's precisely hearing the vocals of a regular geezer that makes it so affecting. The night ends with the prophetic 'The Universal'. Hands aloft, Hyde Park sings "it really, really, really could happen", minutes after Albarn informed us that they weren't sure if this reunion was ever possible. The biggest party London could have ever seen, united in a love for anthems that defined not only the whole of the Nineties, but a glorious moment in British music where we felt like we had the world in our hands for a second time. There really aren't enough superlatives to empty onto the page to do tonight justice - one night to brag to the grandchildren that you were there. How many bands can achieve that a decade after their supposed glory days?