August 7, 1999
London Camden Electric Ballroom
It's become something of a badge of longevity and quality to 'do' a B-sides show...
Damon's surprised to receive little response when he announces that they're about to play Down an "ancient song from when we thought we wereSpacemen 3" : "I thought you were here because you knew all our songs."
It's become something of a badge of longevity and quality to 'do' a B-sides show, Radiohead did it and Suede did it - but where they were fanclub only shows this is a shout- it- from- the- rooftops-any-old-fucker- with- a -credit- card can get in show.
So Damon don't be surprised - they're here because they have to be. Your onstage Reading announcements created a buzz about Blur which has been absent for much of the half-arsed campaign to flog '13'. It created a scramble for tickets which resulted in people being here because they HAVE TO BE HERE without once pausing to think like, why do they HAVE to be here? After all, this is just a B-sides show. Nothing else.
But what B-sides. The charming pastoral English psychedelia of 'Peach', the immense blistering wall of noise that is Down, the introverted shoegazing brilliance of 'Inertia'. So despite the Electric Ballroom reaching that very special temperature that causes dogs in cars to expire, the hour and twenty minute uninterrupted set is mesmerising.
It's a trip through the difficult Blur - from sonicsmiths to lazy acoustic guitar strokers to uncompromising art shoutathons and, of course, the idiot, why-did-you-bother? easy listening stomp of 'Supa Shoppa'.
'Mace' - written after the band were maced by security at one of their own gigs - is a great lost riff-driven single while 'Young And Lovely' is a delightful insubstantial light and frothy confection with a tune which Celine Dion could nick.
B-sides have always been a way for Blur to let off steam so they could keep writing the skewed hits to keep record company execs happy. 'Day Upon Day' finishes the set - it's flashback time to the anarchy of the Modern Life Is Rubbish tours that were committed to the Starshaped tourfilm - Graham explodes skyward again and again, Damon spits and screams and then at it's conclusion Dave, of all people, kicks over his drums and prowls offstage scowling.
Rock 'n' roll babylon? Or resentment that too few people knew the songs? Doesn't matter - Blur are firey and awesome even when they play songs you don't know.
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