Blur's new Olympic tracks get the thumbs up from critics
Rooftop performance compared to historic Beatles gig as 'one of Britain's great bands' reveals new tunes
IT WAS a fitting way for one of Britpop's finest relics to return to the spotlight. Last night, playing live on a drizzly London rooftop, Blur premiered their first new tracks since 2010. And according to critics, it was worth the wait.
The band played two songs, Under the Westway and The Puritan, both of which were written for the Olympics closing ceremony concert in Hyde Park, which Blur will be headlining later this summer. Performing with a backdrop of tower blocks and flyovers, the band live streamed their mini concert across the internet.
First came Under the Westway, described by Rolling Stone as "a tense, delicate ballad with trembling piano parts". The magazine continued: "With little room to operate, the band kept emotions high in a straightforward performance, [Damon] Albarn's triumphant vocals erupting halfway through the track with melodic bombast."
The Guardian's Tim Jonze was similarly impressed, noting traces of Hey Jude in the "singalong" melody. "It was Blur at their most anthemic," Jonze wrote. "Under The Westway feels like a proper rock heritage song".
Next, after a short Twitter interview where Alex James predicted this summer's gigs will be "very loud and sweaty but not in a bad way", the band played The Puritan. The reaction from critics was more mixed.
Music magazine The Quietus called the track a "weird, lo-fi electronics thing" and said the early enjoyment was dashed when "the staple Blur 'lalalala' crap comes in at the end". The Guardian's Michael Hann saw the track as more of a "social comment", saying the "spritely" tune was "borrowing heavily from the lower-fi end of indie, with its cheap keyboards and scratchy guitar."
For The Independent's Nick Hasted, who gave the mini-gig four stars, there were echoes of history in the performance. "Watching the slightly shaky transmission live from a roof in the vicinity of the Westway, the west London dual carriageway, The Beatles' iconic 1969 rooftop concert comes to mind," he said. "Under the Westway feels like a warmly played valediction; a parting shot, at least for now, from one of Britain's great bands."
If the critics were warm in their praise for the new tracks, reaction on Twitter was red hot. "Damon is back, and so are Blur. I now have an overwhelming feel of euphoria," wrote one fan. Another tweeted: "Yep, somehow, against a grey, rainy concreted Westway London backdrop, Blur have proved that their genius is alive and well."