After much anticipation and talk, Blur finally arrived. And like all good rock stars, they spent their first night out on the town and got wasted. The next morning they were scheduled to do a special live program on MTV. The trio showed up and delivered what can only be described as one of the most bizarre 60 minutes in TV history.
The whole show started off excellently. Hosts Alexander Anatolievich and Tutta Larson introduced the band, who then played an acoustic version of "Out of Time." Seeing and hearing Blur up this close and personal was simply amazing, even if the musicians themselves thought they played badly. Singer Damon Albarn assured the audience that they would play much better in their shows, which took place on Sept. 24 and 25 at DK Gorbunova.
This all sounds normal enough, but things began to change as soon as the hosts started asking the questions, which were unconventional (to say the least) so perhaps it shouldnt have surprised me when the subjects of biscuits, rooster penises and military marching all entered the conversation.
Even though coming to Moscow "was a breeze," according to Albarn, it seems that giving interviews is much harder, but Albarn had the good sense to explain his behavior "Im terribly hungover."
As Albarn sat painfully propping up his head with his hands and bassist Alex James lolled between the stage and the audience, drummer Dave Rowntree became the answer-man. He successfully fielded a slew of questions, the most worthy of note being about downloading music over the Internet. Like many musicians, Blur have conflicting views about the subject. Rowntree said that the music industry was losing money in Great Britain, so he could understand their frustration with the Internet, but, at the same time, he also sympathized with listeners and agreed that CDs shouldnt be so expensive.
Its evident just by listening to Blurs new stuff that they have evolved since their days as the ringleaders of Brit-pop, so the hosts asked the trio about the new album, "Think Tank." James jumped in and answered, "Making music is a whimsical process" before degenerating into a series of stories about tea and biscuits.
As the interview continued, Albarns shoes came up, as well the touchy subject of recently departed guitarist Graham Coxon. Needless to say, Blur more readily talked about Albarns shoes than Coxon.
But however absurd this hour was (and, believe me, youll want to catch this program on MTV), it certainly made for an interesting afternoon, but the day was just getting started.
I arrived at DK Gorbunova fashionably late and happily discovered opening group Blast playing a set, which was magnificent. Opening bands usually only garner half the crowds attention while the other half waits in the wings talking about how excited they are to see and hear the headliner. Blast, however, had a certain aura about them that elicited the type of energy that usually only streams from legends. Blasts set seemed too short since the crowd yelled for an encore, but to keep on schedule, the group left the stage so Blur could set up, but Blasts hybrid of indie-rock and Brit-pop stayed in the minds of the listeners up until the moment Blur took the stage.
Dressed in a leisure suit, Albarn came swaggering out with a cigarette in true rock-star style. Wasting no time, he shouted "Hello!" to the crowd and belted out the first song, but it was the second piece that really set the show in motion "Beetlebum."
The show was outstanding. There were no lulls between the songs, and Blur played seamlessly. Interestingly, James chose to play with his back turned toward the audience on numerous occasions, but he also made many efforts, stepping over speakers, to get closer to the crowd.
Albarn, like a mad conductor, took the prize for the most energetic: He divided his time between jumping, screaming, swaggering, spitting, smoking and, of course, singing. Surprisingly, they played more songs off their older albums than their most recent release.
Between the older songs, Blur played a two-song set off their latest album. Just before playing "Out of Time," Albarn led the audience in a group chant, which seemed oddly religious but so appropriate for the occasion. They then played "Crazy Beat," where Albarn, along with the crowd, exhibited their penchant for rock-star-style jumping.
The next song educed one of the largest reactions from the crowd and the walls shook when the entire venue collectively shouted "Woo-hoo!" Yes, Blur played their banner song, "Song 2."
Before playing their last song in the official set Albarn blew kisses to the crowd and said, "Weve always wanted to come to Russia. Its nice to be here with the nice weather and all the nice people Thank you." But the crowd wouldnt let Blur go home early (and, truthfully, I dont think Blur wanted to stop playing), so an encore was inevitable.
Amazingly, Blur played for almost two hours with nonstop energy. Their love for the music showed through in an almost spiritual way. The stream of energy between the band and the crowd was unlike any Id ever seen before. I was a casual fan of Blur before I saw them on Wednesday, but now its official I love Blur.