House of Blues, Las Vegas
June 12, 2003

It had been some time since we last listened to Parklife, so when it came time for us to select what records to listen to on our 11-hour drive to Las Vegas we stuck the disc in our carrying case. Inserting the album in our stereo deep into the boring landscape of Southern Utah, the synth-pop and disco of Parklife felt really uplifting. Whereas the release helped to further define mid-Nineties Brit-pop, it was the sing-a-long anthemic nature of many of the songs that really made this a defining album. Anyway, it was a rather happy coincidence that we should arrive in Las Vegas, open a local alt-weekly, and see that Blur is playing the very next night.

It truly was a surprise, since this is a band that once declared they would never tour the States again and I had no idea they had come over in support of their new album, Think Tank. On top of this, the band hadn’t played in Vegas since 1997. They opened their set with crowd favorites “Bettlebum” and “Girls & Boys”, and raced through a total of 16 songs and 4 encores in about an hour-and-a-half. The real standout in their set was “Song 2”, which took position as the fourteenth song of the set. We refer to this as a “standout” because we never expected them to play it. You get the impression that the band feels a sort of resentment for the short, thrashy mockery of grunge being their one true American hit single, and rightfully so. Yet they played it and seemed to enjoy themselves.

Damon Albarn, however, made his hesitation towards America a little more clear between songs. He says it took him twelve years to chat comfortably on stage, and he did chat quite a few times between songs… about Morocco, about the absence of Graham Coxon, and about America. At one point he said, quite frankly, that they were dreading coming to America. He went on to say it was “hard to translate” his feelings, but what you could read into his comments is that Blur has had a hard time translating their success overseas to the United States and this has been a frustrating experience for them. Playing to an audience of at least 500 people, Damon referred to us as a “very special, select few”, clearly emphasizing the “few” since on their home continent they would draw an audience ten times larger. On the flipside, Damon seemed put-off by the height of the stage, stating that he felt like he was performing in an impersonal elementary school auditorium, and even went into the audience during “Girls & Boys”. And though the crowd may have been small on Blur terms, there was no shortage of adoring fans. In what is probably the most Beatles-esque moment we have ever witnessed, girls were shrieking when the band took the stage, shedding tears, waving their hands to fan their faces, pulling at their hair, and yelling (some explicit) terms of endearment to Damon. It was hysteria, just short of fainting.

Despite the claim of one local Las Vegas writer that the band has “lived every rock cliché and created a few of their own”, this night nothing seemed further from the truth. They were a great rock band playing great songs, even if witnessing them in this country is in a way seeing them out of their element. They weren’t being rock stars. They weren’t pretentious or standoffish. They certainly weren’t Oasis up there on stage. (Peter Bottomley & Nissa Bottomley)




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