To say that much of the music of the 80s left me cold is something of an understatement. Even though it was the era I came of age in, exploring music and bands of earlier decades held much more appeal. But when Blur and Britpop appeared my appetite for new music and new bands was dramatically awakened, like hitting a second bout of teenager-dom. I’d just started Uni in my late 20s as a mature student and Parklife was rarely off the juke box in the Goldsmiths college bar in 94.
And two decades later Blur are going strong and headlining Hyde Park once again, something they have done more than any other band according to the official blurb for this summer’s series of gigs in the Royal Park. And having seen them here in 2009 for their fantastically received reunion it’s good to be seeing them again. Unlike 2009, however, Blur have a new album to promote and they open with Go Out from this year’s The Magic Whip. Imagery from the album cover (featuring a big Mr Whippy) dominated the graphics on the big screen and they even have an ice-cream van on stage with Damon Albarn handing out cornets to hungry punters at the front. They play five songs from the new album tonight. It’s a strong album with strong tunes but the sound and feel is unmistakably Blur and they fit in well to the overall set. That not to say, however, there’s not a huge selection of classic Blur that everyone can sing along to, including There’s No Other Way, Beetlebum, Tender, Song 2, This is a Low and, of course, Parklife, with Phil Daniels coming on stage to reprise his famous spoken commentary (and hand out a few ice-creams, too, of course…)
The crowd is hugely good natured and it’s very much a communal celebration in Hyde Park. These songs have stood the test of time and are rightly held in great affection, as are the band who play them. Blur helped give a much-needed shake-up to a dreary and uninspiring UK music scene twenty-odd years ago and the love for the band tonight is testimony as to why they have been so important. Now let’s hear it for a Supergrass reunion…
There’s No Other Way
Coffee & TV
Out of Time
Thought I Was a Spaceman
He Thought of Cars
End of a Century
Trouble in the Message Centre
Parklife (with Phil Daniels)
To the End
This Is a Low
Girls & Boys
An added bonus of buying tickets for Black Sabbath in Hyde Park was having the chance to see Motörhead on the bill earlier in the day. Lemmy’s recent health problems had left some question marks over the future of the band and so, five years after I’d last seen them, it was good to catch up with them again on stage.
However, while Motörhead’s “best of” CD and their iconic No Sleep ’til Hammersmith live album are frequently blasting from my stereo, I must confess to having heard not a single album Motörhead have recorded since about 1982. And although we were treated versions of Stay Clean, Ace of Spades and Overkill that owners of the No Sleep… album will be very familiar with, there were several songs in the 45-minute set with which I was unfamiliar. The thing about Motörhead, however, is consistency: in sound, in quality and in attitude. So while a particular song they are performing may not be a classic from the Overkill/ Bomber/Ace of Spades era, it manages to sound exactly like it should be.
As well as iconic front-man/bassist extraordinaire, Lemmy Kilmister, Motörhead are Phil Campbell on guitar and Mikkey Dee on drums and while neither were in the band in the early “classic” years, Campbell has been with them for thirty years and Dee for over twenty. As for Lemmy, you wouldn’t think it from his vocal delivery and certainly not from his bass-playing, but it’s during his brief between-song banter with the audience that you realise that Lemmy is now quite an old man.
Will Lemmy and Motörhead be around forever? Obviously not. Will they be performing for that much longer? If truth be told, probably not. Is it still worth seeing them? On today’s performance – most certainly yes. Catch them now while they are still a living, working unit, still delivering the classic Motörhead sound.
Over the Top
Lost Woman Blues
Going to Brazil
Killed by Death
Ace of Spades
If there’s a competition for the longest gap between the first and second time you’ve seen a band then my entry will be Black Sabbath. I first saw them at Reading festival in 1983 and didn’t manage to see the band for a second time until tonight. My original encounter, back in 1983, was a rather strange version of Black Sabbath, though, with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan on vocals and Smoke on the Water as an encore; and it was mercilessly panned by the critics. Thirty one years later, however, and we are very much seeing a classic version of the band in Hyde Park giving an undoubtedly classic performance. Save from drummer Bill Ward, who is replaced by Tommy Clufetos from Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band, it is the iconic Sabbath line-up with Osbourne on vocals, Tony Iommi on guitar and Geezer Butler on bass.
Osbourne’s ups and downs have certainly been well-documented and Iommi has been undergoing debilitating bouts of chemotherapy over the past two years. All of that is a world away from tonight’s performance, however, and the band members are all blisteringly on form. They commence with a stunning version of War Pigs and one by one the classics are reeled off: Snowblind, Fairies Wear Boots, Iron Man. The sound is great. The guitars, drums and vocals are everything you would want at a Sabbath gig. The visuals on the big screens behind add to the atmosphere of the music and the huge and good natured crowd loves it.
The set-list is vintage Sabbath, with two tracks from the recent comeback album, Age of Reason and God is Dead?, thrown in. The 13 album was more than just a comeback album, though, and God is Dead?, performed towards the end of tonight’s set, is a real classic that easily sits alongside other Sabbath classics of the early 70s. That was followed by a well-received Children of the Grave. A hugely appreciative Osbourne thanks the enormous crowd and the band leaves the stage.
Everyone knows how strict Westminster City Council is when it comes to their 10.30pm curfews at Hyde Park. But there were still some time precious minutes left and what everyone in the crowd wanted was for Black Sabbath to come back on and give us Paranoid. And that is exactly what we got, not only Sabbath’s best known song but one of the greatest rock tunes of all time. It was the climax to an utterly stunning evening. Iommi has hinted in interviews that after Hyde Park there may not be an opportunity for the band to tour again so this could be Black Sabbath’s last ever performance. If it is then what an absolutely stunning performance to end on. 10/10.
Into the Void
Age of Reason
Behind the Wall of Sleep
Fairies Wear Boots
God Is Dead?
Children of the Grave