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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Show Review: Blur @ The Hollywood Bowl

Blur as they were.

Show Review:
 Blur @ The Hollywood Bowl

  Last night, Blur played the Hollywood Bowl as part of their two city tour of the United States, theoretically in support of their recently released LP.  In reality,it was more of a two decades in the making victory lap, building on their 2013 show at the Coachella festival.  In between songs, Damon Albarn told a story- first, he said he'd been coming to Los Angeles for 26 years now (Damon Albarn is 47).  He described how, inevitably they'd drive past the Hollywood Bowl between their hotel and press ("Radio, yes it was always radio.") and they would pass by and he would say, "Oh, that'll never happen for us, I guess."
Blur now.

 It is, perhaps, a little cheeky to say such a thing after the Coachella performance in 2013.  In fact, Coachella appearances are often used to set up such a show at the Hollywood Bowl, and the timing here would seem to bear that out.  Damon Albarn has got around to other things with varying degrees of artistic and commercial success and all the other members have maintained various levels of public visibility.  I've personally experienced The Good, The Bad & The Queen in concert, like everyone I've heard the Gorrilaz singles ad nauseum  on alt rock radio and I've not heard his solo record.

  I couldn't help but reflect on the recent three part BBC 4 series on "Indie Music" that I've been watching courtesy a vpn program installed on my girlfriend's macintosh and watched on her apple tv.  And because we're watching it "live time," by last night I'd watched the first two chapters but not the third.  And I was sitting there, and watching Blur and thinking, "Blur is the third chapter to the BBC indie documentary."  I mean, not by themselves, but they are alongside Oasis, Pulp, etc.

  The first chapter of the BBC Indie Music documentary focused on the initial rise of local clusters of bands, labels and venues, from Manchester working down all the way to Coventry.  Here, indie music was essentially individual local scenes with labels inspired by the example of the Buzzcocks AND releases on major labels like The Sex Pistols, and they were largely "punk."

 The second chapter of the BBC Indie Music documentary focused on the development of a national and international infrastructure for the distribution of indie bands through both indie labels and major labels.   Critical here were the fanzines, the Rough Trade network of record stores and visionary United State record executives like Seymor Stein of Sire Records.

  The second chapter also discussed the parallel development of dance music within the indie framework. A major revelation from the second chapter of the BBC 4 Indie Music documentary is the incredible commercial success of dance-art acts like the KLF and the status of artists like Rick Astley as "indie" artists.

  More than any other band of the final indie renaissance of the early to mid 1990s, Blur stood astride all of these developments.  They broke through with a dance number, found English success with a number of albums that wittily dissected the foibles of modern life and failed to find the kind of commercial success in the United States that would have solidified their success as an institutional modern rock act along the lines of U2, Jack White and the Foo Fighters.

  So this performance, coupled with the recent Coachella appearances, doesn't "writer a new chapter" but it add a kind of coda.  If one considers recent scientific flirtations with the idea that there are millions of different dimensions, each with its own reality, surely there are more than a few where Blur plays Dodger Stadium, but living in a reality where they play the Hollywood Bowl, even if they don't sell out the Hollywood Bowl, isn't a bad place to be.

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