Insert Own ‘Hyde Parklife’ Pun Here More
Written By Rebecca Price Thursday, July 2nd, 2009
Golden Silvers, Crystal Castles, Foals and Blur at Hyde Park, London
Picture the scene. Thousands upon thousands of people have voluntarily shut themselves into a giant enclosure in Hyde Park, on the hottest day of the biggest heatwave South East England has seen for years. There are empty tents in preparation for the Wireless festival, the grass is long dead, there are signs telling you to drink plenty of water (which is priced at £2 a bottle), and Crystal Castles are billed to be playing live at some point. Why would normal people subject themselves to this?
The main reason is to revel in Blur’s grand resurrection following ecstatic reviews of their low-key warm up shows and their triumph at Glastonbury only a few days before. The other reason that people are actually quite enjoying themselves here – sunning themselves on the dried ground, surrounded by cigarette butts and empty pear cider bottles, listening pleasantly to Nouvelle Vague booming through the speakers and when Golden Silvers come on to churn out some competent but thoroughly ignorable indie music, no one seems to break from their sunbathing to pay much attention, apart from to work out whether the smoke machine effect is actually a smoke machine or a lost cigarette turning into a would-be forest fire. To be fair to Golden Silvers, they have discovered that magical knack of writing fairly catchy songs that only contain the words of the title repeated over and over, so expect to hear a little more of them in the future (but not too much).
This balmy summertime haze is shattered when the arrival of Crystal Castles is marked by an almighty screech, with some loud bleeping noises that the Dr Who sound effects team abandoned some thirty years ago. The screeching is coming from a poor girl who resembles one of those lost-young-things out of their skull on Substance Death in the drug education videos schools force 12 year olds to watch – staring with a blank face as she stumbles over the stage, collapsing and rolling round the floor until a nice bouncer drags her up again, kicking the bass drum out of time with the Digital Noise, and occasionally standing still then flailing wildly or no reason.
This, we assume, is mean to be stage presence, but as she attempts three times to crowd surf while not a single member of the audience as much as reaches out to her as she wails over the barrier at them, this goes to show how poorly she’s being received. But overall, it’s her voice that turns the already-irritating-but-inoffensively-so noise of the backing music into one of the worst performances I have ever witnessed in my life. She shrieks – an unidentifiable, earsplitting, awful shriek – and this shriek is repeated over and over again in the same note. For half an hour. Every couple of songs they start to feel merciful towards the audience and distort her microphone so heavily with vocoder that she can barely be heard, but then sadly they take it off again, leaving her to do the Junkie Banshee act once more.
I only made out one word she was singing from the entire set, and I think it was ‘pasta’. Eventually, the set ends, and she has to be dragged offstage by her own drummer, while someone puts a Nouvelle Vague song over the speakers, just in case she starts screeching again. If support acts are often picked to make the next band look better, Foals promise to outdo a Beatles reunion with Mozart on the keyboards.
But of course they don’t. The main thing going for Foals is that they are essentially TopShop models who got given guitars and admittedly a decent sense of beat. They are rather good looking up on those screens, and thud along rather nicely, even if it mostly sounds the same (this proved when they introduce a new song their working on, and it sounds exactly like to intro to Cassius. As does most of the set, come to think of it).
Perhaps I would be a little kinder to Foals had a selection of their irritating fans not been stood right next to my friend and I. These were men in designer flipflops and those radiator grid glasses who were playing air bass, and their loud mouthed girlfriends saying OhmygodarentFOALSlikesoAMAZINGyeahtotallyIhopetheyplayCassius etc. Perhaps I would be a little kinder to these fans too if they hadn’t disappeared after Foals’ set. Yes, there were people who bought Blur tickets, only to leave after Crystal Castles and Foals. Isn’t that awful?
But for the rest of us, there’s a long wait of what must have been at least a full album’s worth of Nouvelle Vague, and watching a guy on the lighting rig trying to attach a mirrorball to the top of the stage, until at last The Debt Collector theme starts playing and the band come onstage to huge applause. The opening riff of She’s So High starts to ooze out across the park, and all is right in the world, and when Girls And Boys kicks in suddenly ten rows of people – a fair percentage of whom probably haven’t pogo’d in years – are bouncing up and down, singing ‘GIRLS something BOYS something GIRLS something BOYS...’, and generally having a great deal of fun.
The setlist is basically the same as the Glastonbury one, mixing the big hits with the less expected but still much appreciated album tracks, and the wild frantic songs matched with ones that make everyone stand back and stare at the stage in wonder. Tender turns the entire audience into a massive gospel choir, but after Damon announces that Parklife was inspired by people-watching in this very park, the reaction is so crazy that I lose all sight of my friend, am almost crushed to the ground, and it takes until ‘It’s got nuffink to do with yer Vorsprung Durch Technique, y’know’ before I realise Phil Daniels is even on stage. The mirrorball descends for a gorgeous yet slightly jazzy To The End, before immediately disappearing again (the guy who spent so long fixing it up must have been happy) as This Is A Low spectacularly finishes off the main set, leaving the crowd to mix the chorus of Tender with the chants of ‘We love Blur! We luh Blah! Weluhblah! Weluhblah!’, until they come back onstage to kick out an encore. The audience clearly haven’t run out of energy yet because I’m almost crushed again during Song 2, which is sandwiched between Popscene and Advert for even more wild pushing, shoving, bouncing, dancing, singing and screaming.
After they disappear again, and a new chant of ‘We want Blur! We war Blah! Wewarblah! Wewarblah!’, they come on once more for a final appearance, finishing beautifully with The Universal. After detaching himself from the hands of the front row, Damon thanks us all for coming, wishes us a good summer, and it’s all finished.
‘We want more! We wah more! Wewahmor! Wewahmor!’, but they’ve gone. Nouvelle Vague are back on the speakers, and it’s time to kick through the millions of empty bottles and head home. Interestingly, the mix of broken lost objects on the floor hint at how varied Blur’s fanbase really are – commuters’ Oystercards and trendy young things’ sunglasses lie together, snapped beyond repair. Once everyone is reunited with the people they lost during the set, and has squeezed through the limited amount of exits only to find Hyde Park Corner tube is still shut, they stroll through the warm London evening, buzzing about how brilliant the gig was. Because it was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. In the space of about a week, Blur have once again proved themselves to be one of the most well-loved and highly regarded British bands of the past twenty years. Oasis should really be paying more attention.