From Olympic Sta­dium to Hyde Park, it was all a Blur at the end

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

ONE NIGHT, two tick­ets, an Oys­ter card and a swift pair of legs. That was last Sun­day in Lon­don. Two mu­si­cal spec­tac­u­lars took place al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ously, and if you were fleet of foot you could take in both.

With the grandiosely ti­tled A Sym­phony of British Mu­sic (aka the Olympic Games clos­ing cer­e­mony) kick­ing off at the Olympic Sta­dium at 9pm and the ri­val event, Blur’s Olympic Clos­ing Cer­e­mony Cel­e­bra­tion Concert, be­gin­ning at 9.30pm in Hyde Park (for the head­lin­ers), it was a tight squeeze. East End bop andWest End gig.

Be­tween Hyde Park and the Olympic Park, you could take in the good, the bad and the ugly of mod­ern mu­sic – not to men­tion the great, the wo­jous, the maudlin, the in­ap­pro­pri­ate, the melo­dra­matic and the tri­umphant. The Spe­cials and New Or­der did the open­ing hon­ours for Blur in the West End, while out east it was a Now That’s What I Call Clas­sic British Mu­sic al­bum brought to life.

If at times you for­got which venue was which and who was singing what, and found your­self ru­ing missed op­por­tu­ni­ties else­where, it was un­der­stand­able, as never be­fore has so much mu­sic been played in such a short (twohours-plus) pe­riod of time.

Why the two shows couldn’t have been melded to­gether – the Hyde Park per­form­ers could have slot­ted seam­lessly into the Olympic Park line-up – is a moot point, but you re­ally did get a sense of the mu­si­cal chaos on the night when you started off watch­ing live ac­tion in Strat­ford only to continue watch­ing it on a big screen on ar­rival in Hyde Park.

Mad­ness – a big sin­ga­long hit on the screens in Hyde Park – were un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously cut off mid-per­for­mance as Blur hit the stage with Girls and Boys. The sense of dis­junc­tion was only height­ened by the karaoke ver­sion of Park­life that was be­ing belted out in Strat­ford as the real thing was be­ing played a 30-minute-orso Tube ride away.

You might have rea­son­ably as­sumed be­fore the gigs that the Olympic event would be the cheesier of the two, what with the tune­less fish­wives who go un­der the name The Spice Girls, and Ed Sheeran (who surely can’t be more than 12 years of age) hav­ing a most un­for­tu­nate go at Wish You Were Here.

In­ci­den­tally, such is the mu­si­cal knowl­edge among Ed Sheeran fans that many tweeted about Ed’s great new song (ie Wish You Were Here), how much he has im­proved as a song­writer and how they hoped his “new” song would be on his next al­bum.

But it was the Blur gig that won in the melo­drama stakes. Though they have now notched up more “last-ever” gigs than Frank Si­na­tra, the emo­tion was clearly vis­i­ble on the faces of Al­barn & co as they shook, rat­tled and rolled through Song 2, Un­der the West­way, This Is a Low and tear­drenched closer The Univer­sal.

Indie kids, old and young, were cry­ing and hug­ging and re­join­ders of “best gig ever!” fol­lowed you out of the Park. Then it was on to a nearby hostelry to catch TheWho bring­ing their max­i­mum r’n’b to pro­ceed­ings on the other side of the city.

With Emeli Sandé (singing at both the open­ing and clos­ing cer­e­monies) per­haps get­ting more out of the games than Jes­sica En­nis, and with an event that fea­tured the most mu­si­cal per­for­mances in Olympic his­tory, you re­ally got a sense of how Lon­don had wo­ven its mu­si­cal magic into the sport­ing ex­trav­a­ganza.

From The Clash to The Spice Girls to One Di­rec­tion to Kate Bush (in spirit only, sadly), this was the best of mu­si­cal times and the worst of mu­si­cal times. Stand by for the up­com­ing The Best Olympic Mu­sic Al­bum in the World – Ever! and say good­bye to Blur, at least un­til their next “last-ever” concert.

Al­barn waves a blurry-eyed good­bye – yet again

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