Album Review: Blur – Parklive

2012 has certainly been the year for boosting national pride. First there was the spectacle of the Diamond Jubilee, which was followed by the inspiring Olympics where the world watched on as British talent shone on the international stage. Though the sports stars were without doubt the main attraction, entertainment was equally high on the agenda. Having wowed with an unforgettable opening ceremony that read as a Who’s Who of British Entertainment (even if Sir Cliff Richard was oddly missing from proceedings), the lacklustre closing ceremony felt, by comparison, somewhat of a hotchpotch. But thankfully, the all-star cast of said lacklustre closing ceremony were far from the last act to grace the Olympic celebrations, as one of Britain’s best ever bands – Blur – honoured the event with a closing ceremony in Hyde Park. The sold-out event has unsurprisingly been transformed into a 5-disc release, just in time for Christmas. So, is it worth all the fuss?

Blur, whose career has spanned three decades, easily fit under the title ‘Best Of British’. While the troupe have had more than their fair share of commercial acclaim, the Goldsmith’s Graduates have displayed a flair for the avant-garde over the last 20 years. The move has ensured that their back catalogue is anything but boring, as they take in a wealth of styles and sounds. This ensures that any set that celebrates the retrospective is diverse and engaging. The Olympics Closing Ceremony Celebration is no exception.

Arguably, chatty frontman Damon Albarn is far from on finest vocal form. Clearly relishing his expansive audience, he often relies on showmanship and audience interaction, with his own vocal washed out by the scream-along on many of Blur’s biggest hits. However, this does not detract from the album’s appeal, simply adding an overwhelming ‘I wish I was there’ element to the mix.

With every one of Blur’s seven stellar studio albums visited during the evening, it is fair to say that everyone from the die-hard to passing fan will find something worth their while. Though there are questionable setlist features – notably ‘Trimm Trabb’ – the highlights are not necessarily the more predictable numbers. While the audience lap-up the Phil-Daniels-featuring ‘Parklife’ and riot-inducing ‘Song 2′, it is the touching sing-along that is ‘Tender’ and the often-overlooked frenzy ‘Popscene’ that steal the show.

Parklive is essentially a retrospective celebration of one of Britain’s most innovative pop groups ever. The fact it simultaneously celebrates a great year in contemporary Britain is just an added bonus.

Go Get It: ‘Tender’

Forget It: ‘Trimm Trabb’

Parklive is available from Amazon and iTunes.

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