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It’s generally anyone’s guess as to what exactly is going through a performer’s mind before they arrive on stage. When it comes to Jamie T, however, one envisions him getting slapped in the face — hard — and told that his songs are rubbish.
It’s only this bizarre hypothetical that would come even remotely close to explaining exactly why the man plays his songs with the kind of hot-headed vengeance that he does. Their poppiness and knockabout demeanour are replaced by a vociferous punk energy — so much so that it occasionally takes a minute for one to recognise even his best-known tracks.
Prior to 2014, T was out of the public eye for the better part of a half-decade. Whatever happened in his time away, it has subsequently lead to a peculiar second act — this is a set that sells itself, if nothing else, on its devil-may-care attitude.
“Are you up for this?” It was the first question that escaped Damon Albarn’s mouth as he stood alongside his bandmates for Blur‘s first Australian show since 1997. He may as well have asked “Do bears s**t in the woods?” — the affirmative roars that followed threatened to drown him out.
Yes, there were quite a few diehards among the crowd — some whom had lined up for hours prior to scope out prime positions at the front of the stage. Let the record show, however, that there is no bigger Blur fan than Albarn — not in an egomaniacal way, but simply in the sense that his excitement at playing these songs bordered on electric. When not tied down to his acoustic guitar, he was found parading about, screaming for crowd response and occasionally climbing down onto the barricade. None could match his fervour nor his pure joy — and it was primarily this that elevated the performance into greatness.
It’s a tough sell to wedge in new songs amid the classics, but Blur worked hard at pushing them into the collective conscience. Thought I Was a Spaceman reached dizzying heights with stunning mirrorball visuals, while singles Go Out and Lonesome Street were both welcomed enthusiastically.
Still, this was not about The Magic Whip — it was never going to be. This was an evening celebrating the return of a band that clearly meant the world to a sizable portion of attendees. The second any familiar moment rang out — that drum fill from Song 2, the barking dogs of Parklife, the synth stings of Girls and Boys — it was quite literally on for young and old.
Seats were emptied, shoulders carried the more daring on the dancefloor and both fingers and fists were raised and shaken in perfect syncopation. Tonight was all about the wonder — nay, the miracle — of Blur returning to Australia. Even when they all stood there, playing the songs that defined many a coming-of-age, it still didn’t feel real. Perhaps therein lay the key to what made this night so special.
Image: Damon Albarn Performs With Blur In Sydney 25.07.15 / Photo: Ashley Mar