Photo courtesy: Chicago Sun-Times

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
March 17, 1997

Blur has always been a band that mainstream America just didnt get.  Maybe it was vocalist Damon Albarn’s exaggerated accent or the quintessential British characters he likes to write about, but it seemed that Blur’s fate was to play to a small group of Anglophiles who adored them.

That should change with their self-titled record, which was released last week.  At their sold-out show at the Riviera Theatre Saturday night, the four-man group (supplemented by a keyboardist and a two-man horn section) went top heavy on cuts from Blur, which is the most accessible of their five albums.  They gave their fans a deliriously fun 1-hour 40-minute set that had music, style and showmanship.

Blur started their set off with the ballad “Beetlebum.” Sitting quietly on a stool strumming an acoustic guitar, the angelic looking Albarn sang the song with laconic grace.  Graham Coxon fingers slid up the neck of his guitar releasing scratchy riffs just as Albarn hit the falsetto chorus.

That done, Albarn pushed aside the stool and got down to business.  Jumping around stage with all the energy of a five-year-old who has just gobbled up a handful of sugar, he led the band into the two-minute rave up, “Song 2.”  The strobe lights flashed on the audience, revealing a sea of heads bobbing up and down in syncopated appreciation.  The musicians thanked the fans by delving into more familiar territory.  Two beats into the churning intro, the fans screamed in recognition of the band’s best known American single, “Girls and Boys.”

Blur is best experienced live.  Their music takes on a vibrant charge that isnt captured on record.  And Albarn’s stage presence is unmatched.  English bands–such as Blurs rivals Oasis–have suffered the reputation of being boring shoegazers on stage.  Albarn rebuts that stereotype with every performance.  Sometimes hell twist his body into praying mantis poses as he leans into the audience.  Other times hell leap onto the amps or the keyboards without missing a beat.  And after each swig from a bottle of Evian, he’d share the remainder by dousing the sweaty fans at front.

By the time they cranked out a sped up version of “Parklife” as part of their encore, Blur had left an indelible mark on the spent audience.


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