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July 4, 2009 - NME.com:

Blur finish Hyde Park residency in dramatic fashion

Band hail hardcore fans for attending massive sell out show

Damon Albarn and bouncers in Hyde Park
Photo by frpap.com.

Blur played the final English gig of their comeback tour last night (July 3), entertaining 55,000 fans for the second night in a row at London's Hyde Park.

Frontman Damon Albarn was visibly overwhelmed at times during the gig, which saw the band play a career-spanning 25-song set.

Earlier in the day, acts including Florence And The Machine, Deerhoof and Amadou And Mariam had warmed up the crowd, who were able to bask in sunshine throughout the gig (despite forecasts predicting torrential rain).

Vampire Weekend also played, taking to the stage before Blur to perform a 45-minute set which saw the New Yorkers debut two brand new songs.

The first unreleased track, 'White Sky', saw singer Ezra Koenig sing the chorus to the crowd a capella, before asking them to join in during the track itself. "We came over here just to play this show," Koenig stated before launching into 'M79'.

"This is another new song," he revealed before debuting the punky track 'Cousins'. "It's two minutes 15 seconds long, roughly. You won't know it but hopefully you'll remember it by the end."

The biggest cheers for the band came when they played spirited versions of 'Oxford Comma' and set closer 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa', which was preceded by Koenig showering praise on Blur for inviting Vampire Weekend to open for them.

As with their other shows on the tour, Blur opened their set with debut single 'She's So High', firing up the massive crowd who included the likes of The Last Shadow Puppets' and The Rascals' frontman Miles Kane, model Agyness Deyn and television personalities Ant & Dec.

"This is the first gig we put on sale, so thank you!" Albarn said after playing the track, referencing the fact that when Blur announced to NME that they were to play together again last December, tonight's gig was the show they announced.

The band, who were augmented by a keyboard player, backing singers and trumpet section during the gig then launched into a pacey version of Britpop classic 'Girls And Boys', following the track with its 'Parklife' cousin and fan-favourite 'Tracy Jacks'. Gazing over the crowd and into the distance after the track, Albarn commented that the audience looked "So beautiful in the sunset".

Mixing their more well known material ('There's No Other Way', 'Country House', 'To The End') with less ubiquitous tracks like 'Oily Water', 'Death Of A Party' and 'Trimm Trabb', the band's set saw the band in blistering form throughout.

Albarn also took the time to inform a large section of the crowd that Scottish tennis star Andy Murray had been knocked out of Wimbledon earlier in the day. "Now that Andy Murray isn't at Wimbledon, I guess we're the official Fred Perry sponsors," he said, jokingly mocking the designer t-shirts that have become synonymous with Blur (indeed, both Albarn and drummer Dave Rowntree were wearing the garb during the gig).

Eager fans towards the front of the crowd had to be restrained midway through the set, as organisers informed Albarn that a crush could occur unless they were asked to calm down.

The frontman used a megaphone to address the audience. "No one must get hurt, so…just enjoy yourselves a little bit more safely, ok?" he said with a smile.

The band then played one of the softest songs of the night, 'Out Of Time'.

Follow-up track 'Trimm Trabb' saw impassioned performances from both Albarn and guitarist Graham Coxon, who ended the song in frenzied style by falling to his knees and playing the guitar outro in a pose that recalled Jimi Hendrix.

Blur in Hyde Park
Photo by hidden shine.

After playing 'Parklife', which saw actor Phil Daniels join the band onstage to sing his vocal parts, Albarn went up the microphone but seemed lost for words. Gazing into the audience with a big smile on his face, he paused before simply stating "Thank you!"and raising both of his arms in the air.

"This is our last gig in London, and England. It's been amazing. We weren't sure if it was possible, but this is something else," Albarn said after the band finished 'Song 2'. The track had seen many fans cheer and chant the name of drummer Rowntree, whose beat started the song.

Finishing their set with a euphoric double of 'For Tomorrow' and 'The Universal', Albarn paid tribute to the people behind the scenes who he said had "bullied" Blur into getting back in touch with each other since going on hiatus after 2003 album 'Think Tank'.

"I just wanna say thank you to everyone who sort of bullied us and persisted in getting us to do this," he said, adding to the audience "And thank you too!"

The band then launched into their final song of the night, an anthemic version of 'The Universal' that saw arms throughout the crowd raised as the mass audience did their best to drown out the band by singing along to the song's chorus.

As crowds poured out of Hyde Park following the song, police were forced to quell the rush by stopping traffic around the site. Among those caught up in the melee were Australian actor and popstar Jason Donovan, who was on his push bike outside the park. Despite hundreds of fans noticing, jeering and crowding around the star, he declined to acknowledge them.

Blur played:

'She's So High'
'Girls & Boys'
'Tracy Jacks'
'There's No Other Way'
'Out Of Time'
'Trimm Trabb'
'Coffee & TV'
'Country House'
'Oily Water'
'Chemical World'
'Sunday Sunday'
'End Of A Century'
'To The End'
'This Is A Low'
'Song 2'
'Death Of A Party'
'For Tomorrow'
'The Universal'

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