Monday, August 05, 2013

Blur rocks in full-length outing at Dublin's Irish Museum of Modern Art

Damon Albarn greeting the faithful in Dublin on August 1, 2013
I'm just back from a fantastic trip to Ireland where my wife and I made our first-ever trip to the Emerald Isle. It was a long-time dream of mine to travel to Ireland and a chance to catch Blur in the band's lone 2013 performance anywhere in Ireland or the United Kingdom was icing on the cake. Add to that a long-standing and kind invite from friends living in Dublin made it a no-brainer to make the flight from Southern California to Dublin to take in all the sights as well as the August 1, 2013 concert.

The Thursday evening concert played outdoors in front of 20,000 or so other fans on the grounds of the historic Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in Kilmainham under the constant threat of showers. Thankfully it wouldn't rain until we were safely seated in a taxi bound for the cottage where we were staying in Sandyford later that night. 

Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon
Our interest in catching Blur in Europe came after we caught them in Coachella earlier this year. While the legendary band was outstanding at Weekend #2 of the annual music fest in Indio, California, we sensed that American audiences simply have (sadly) never fully connected with the quartet. After making our way close to the stage (we were crushed beyond what we had expected despite a nice warning from a friendly fan named Anthony we met a few days earlier in Cork at a fantastic pub called the Mutton Lane Inn) and immersing ourselves in the experience of an Irish rock concert. The audience sang along with just about every song played over the course of 100 minutes, greeting even the more reflective songs ("Out of Time," "Tender," "The Universal") with the fervor and zeal that Coachellafest attendees greeted the band's best-known hit "Song 2." 

There were times even from our close vantage point where the audience almost drowned out singer Damon Albarn in the choruses. From the show's opening salvo, a bouncy "Girls & Boys," to the declaration of "There's No Other Way" and British-styled anthem "Coffee & TV," young and old moved and sang with the songs in a spirit that allowed me to forgive concertgoers since I couldn't always hear the band clearly.

Albarn was obviously having the time of his life throughout the energetic performance, singing "Country House" from the front row, running back and forth, and generally showcasing his devout role as frontman; he closed the night running past and high fiving all the fans pushed against the front. Guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree also seemed more engaged than the Coachella gig.

Blur's material ranges from Kinks-styled witty songcraft to raging rockers, so the fact that the audience was so diverse (teens to fifty somethings) added to the occasion to be sure. 

The Strypes impressed early concertgoers
As for the concert's openers, I was much more impressed by the event's openers, the young Cavan, Ireland-based teenage quartet The Strypes than England's Bat For Lashes. But the entire afternoon and evening was a blast, and truly an experience I'll never forget.

On an only somewhat related note, a few days earlier I caught an impressive acoustic styled singer-songwriter named Ben Murphy at Johnnie Fox's Pub. I will be reviewing his aptly-titled album Ireland later this month in my regular column and will alert you in a future post. 

Here is a video featuring Blur performing "Young & Lovely," the first time the band has performed the song this year:

Blur's Setlist on Aug. 1, 2013:

Girls and Boys
There's No Other Way
Out of Time
Trimm Trabb
Young & Lovely
Coffee & TV
To the End
Country House
Parklife (with Phil Daniels)
End of a Century
This is the Low


Under the Westway
For Tomorrow
The Universal
Song 2

Photos: Robert and Kim Kinsler

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