15 September '99, Grand Théâtre de la Mutualité,
Paris, France

reviewed by Virginie Sabin

Setlist :
End Of A Century
Trimm Trabb
No Distance Left To Run
The Universal
Country Sad Ballad Man
To The End
This Is A Low
There's No Other Way
Song 2

Support Act : Ooberman.

I had the chance to be just in front of the stage, with photographers (photo passes are magic! Thanks to Maryse and Virginie G.). I think Ooberman were very good. I must admit I didn't know them very well (I only knew one song, "blossoms falling" or something like that ; the only one I had heard on a Belgian radio ; French radios are crap). I was quite impressed, and I think I'm gonna buy their album. They seemed very happy to be there, and they looked really nice. I think it lasted about half an hour, but I didn't really remember (I was waiting for our lads, actually...)

Photographers were allowed to stay there during the first 3 songs. I knew I had to appreciate that too short moment.
Here they come. So much noise. I just can't believe I'm so close. My friend Maryse and I are ready to take photos. Damon walks on the stage, and looks at the crowd, then looks at the dozen of persons at his feet... and recognizes me! He greets me. The same way he did in Werchter (Belgium) last July, when I was in the first row. That day, I didn't really know if that was for me or anyone else, but this time it was! I'll never forget that.
I asked Dave to smile for my friend to take a picture, and he did. That was very nice. You know, they could act like pop stars if they wanted to, but they were really friendly.

As usual, they start with Tender. The crowd was singing. People seemed older than usual, for a gig in France (English audiences are usually older, but I remember a gig a couple of years ago where I was the tallest and oldest; good for the view, bad for the everlasting screams). The feeling was strong between the band and the people there. It was nearly religious. Damon was also very concentrated, and the song really seemed to come from his heart. Really.
Bugman was so energetic! I can only remember bits of it, 'cause there were too many things for me to cope with: Damon so close to me, my camera, time going too fast...
Coffee & TV was warmly acclaimed. Poor Graham, his voice is not so loud as Damon's !
After that, we had to leave quickly.
I only heard End of a century and Jubilee from far away, 'cause we had to make our way back with the rest of the audience, as close as possible! What a struggle when your photo pass is no more useful !
As Damon said, then they played some fast songs. What a great series : BLUREMI, Advert, and Popscene. This one is always the one on which people start pogoing. Here we were, all wet and jumping around, trying hard to remain on both our legs! I'm getting too old for that stuff (I lost 2 pounds ; haven't got them back, a couple days after ; I'm quite satisfied!)
Battle was welcome for Damon to rest a while, so did we, actually. We got re-concentrated on that beautiful song, which I think really deserves live interpretation. I always find it much better live than on the album. During the bridge, Damon got off stage and lit a cigarette, before coming back and starting waddling as Graham played Trimm Trabb intro. I love that song, and it was really a highlight for me. Very cool and "stoned" atmosphere (no drugs needed to get high! Just attend a blur gig.) No Distance Left To Run was even calmer. Damon seemed so melancholic. That can make you want to cry. It's a great song to finish with... not the gig, but the first part of it. It's like a temporary end. You're satisfied with what you hear, but at the same time, you want more. And we had.
They came back with Beetlebum. People were singing with Damon. Something was really happening between the crowd and the artists. It was really strong.
The Universal was also great. People were screaming "just let them go!" with Damon.
CSBM was so cool. I also appreciate it more live than on the album. Damon got really mad when saying the last "I'm a ballad man". He was really into it.
I think that it's between CSBM and To the end that a little group started shouting "Chelsea! Chelsea". Damon wanted to answer personally. He came close to the place where the shouts came from and said "Listen, you ***..., you know that tonight I could have been in London to see Chelsea play vs Milan AC, but I'm here" (I must admit these are not the exact words, but that's what he meant). We all appreciated the sacrifice (I know what it is to miss an important football match ; I tried to tell him, but he didn't hear, of course). (He didn't miss any goal, actually: draw, 0-0).
Then he went on saying that he was gonna sing the song of Françoise "Hardyyyy". I asked him if he wanted the French lyrics. He heard me, and said he was relying on us to sing them. The effect was not great though. I mean Damon and the lads are always good. I think we weren't! Our singing wasn't linked enough. We were going "Jus-qu'à...la - fin... en - plein... a-mour" like robots. It didn't last long, as if everyone was realizing the song didn't deserve that. We went on, just listening and singing without shouting!
This is a Low was also a highlight for me, 'cause it's one of my favorites.
When they got off stage, my friend and I knew that they were going to come back with Fried (we had seen it on Graham's set list). It was the first time I heard it live (I wasn't at the Electric Ballroom). I think it surprised many people in the audience; some of them probably didn't know the song. It did well though.
After that, can you just imagine how people got excited with the last 4 songs: G&B, There's no other Way, Parklife, and Song 2!!!
More and more people were fainting and had to be carried to the front.
G&B made us pogo again. I went mad during There's no other Way I can't remember exactly, but I think that it's at the end of that song that Damon came close to the audience and went bending right and left while Smoggy was preventing him from falling into the crowd, which had gone mad!
Then Graham would never start the intro of Parklife! Damon banged his mic with impatience! The dogs had been barking for long when they finally started. It was really funny.
Song 2 was as usual, much expected, and too short! Even if it's been heard too much and even if it's the one non fans know the best, it remains a live standard, for both fans and non fans. Damon said "salut" and they went away. Maryse and I were hoping for a final come back with "Sing", but that vas over.

There was no after show. About 15 minutes later, they went out of the theatre. I just had time to tell Damon he had a nice T-shirt (the same as mine, the one from the exhibition). Graham was carrying his skate board. They both got in a big car and went away.
Alex and Dave got out later, but didn't stay with us very long. The same kind of hired car took them away.
After such emotions, you get both so depressed, and so satisfied with the time you've just spent!
I can't wait to be in Wembley!!!

Thanks to Maryse, Sarah and FineCoxon.

Virginie (Two's A Crowd)

reviewed by Two's A Crowd

Neuf jours plus tard, me revoilà bientôt devant mon groupe favori, cette fois non plus à Londres pour une setlist méga-exceptionnelle composée uniquement de B-sides mais au Grand Théâtre de la Mutualité de Paris pour une prestation plus ordinaire. Munie de mon précieux appareil-photo, j'attends l'arrivée de Blur depuis la fosse des photographes.
Les quatre garçons londoniens débarquent nonchalamment sous un tonnerre d'acclamations, tous vêtus de jeans et T-shirts. Damon Albarn, le chanteur-compositeur-leader, endosse sa guitare acoustique et entonne la ballade gospel Tender, accompagnée par un public chauffé à blanc. Tandis qu'une partie du refrain est reprise par Graham Coxon, le guitariste, Damon lui arpente la scène tout en observant son cher public. Il sourit. Quand son regard vient croiser celui de ma super copine Virginie, tout comme moi fan de Blur, il hoche la tête en signe de salut. Je la regarde comme pour lui dire : "T'as vu ?". Virginie en est baba ! Moi, je m'efforce de prendre quelques bons clichés. Je fais signe à Dave Rowntree, le batteur. Il me fixe en arborant un large sourire. Clic, dans la boîte ! Thanks Dave !
Bugman explose sous les premiers riffs de Coxon. Damon empoigne son micro, trépigne, bondit, passe en flèche de la scène à l'ampli juste à ma gauche en sautant pratiquement par-dessus ma tête. Hou ! Impressionnant ! Suit le sucré Coffee&TV, à la fois pop et suave, chanté par le timide Coxon. C'est alors qu'Alex James, très cool comme à l'accoutumée, s'en va rejoindre Dave. Ils se font face et sourient. Tous les quatre ont vraiment l'air ravi d'être là. Ca fait plaisir à voir !
Puis le groupe reprend deux de leurs classiques, End of a Century et Jubilee, bientôt suivis de leur dernier délire punk, BLUREMI, du sautillant Advert et de l'anthologique Popscene, chanson fétiche de tous les fans de Blur. Nous sommes maintenant gonflés à bloc. Battle, l'une des bizarreries de leur dernier album, "13", un Trimm Trabb dodelinant et un No Distance Left To Run particulièrement virulent viennent clore la première partie du concert parisien.

Maryse Laloux (Two's A Crowd)


Le premier rappel commence avec Beetlebum. Le public devait probablement attendre ce titre avec impatience, car dès le premier « and when she lets me slip away », toute la salle chante à tue tête. Quelque chose de fort est passé entre le groupe et ce public tout acquis à sa cause. Rares sont les chansons de « The Great Escape » que Blur chante encore volontiers en concert. The Universal semble cependant échapper à la règle, et Damon avait l'air plutôt satisfait d'entendre tous ces « just let them go ». Puis, dès les premières notes de Country Sad Ballad Man, on pouvait se dire qu'on était effectivement dans une série de chansons plutôt cool. L'interprétation a été cependant beaucoup plus noisy et plus dure que sur leur album éponyme.
Avant d'entamer « la chanson de Françoise Hardy » (dixit Damon), quelques amateurs de foot se sont mis à crier « Chelsea ! Chelsea ! », club londonien qui compte de nombreux artistes parmi ses supporters, dont Damon Albarn (Alex James supporte Arsenal, ce qui ne manque pas de déclencher quelques querelles au sein du groupe). Damon a alors tenu à faire remarquer qu'en choisissant de venir jouer à Paris, il râtait une affiche assez exceptionnelle, à savoir un match de Ligue de Champions entre son club et Milan AC (ndlr : match nul, 0-0). Sacrifice apprécié par les amateurs de foot !
Au début de To The End, le public ne manqua pas de se charger des paroles en français. J'avoue que l'effet était moyen : les "jusqu'à la fin... en plein soleil...jusqu'à la fin... en plein amour » étaient un peu saccadés et pas vraiment adaptés à ce titre qui se retrouve régulièrement sur les set lists de ces 5 dernières années. De lui-même, le public a laissé Damon finir seul. A chacun son job ! S'en suivit This Is A Low, un autre standard relativement calme, toujours apprécié du public fidèle, au moins depuis l'album Parklife.
Ils sortirent de scène une nouvelle fois. Deuxième rappel ? Bien sûr ! Plus agité que le premier, c'est le moins que l'on puisse dire. C'est Fried qui ouvrit le bal. C'était pour ma part la première fois que j'entendais ce titre en live (ceux qui ont eu la chance d'assister au concert de B-sides de Camden avaient pu l'entendre la semaine précédente). Beaucoup de gens ont eu l'air assez surpris d'entendre une chanson « inconnue » (c'est le cas pour la plupart des fans occasionnels). Mais comme elle bouge pas mal, ça a bien marché ; comme si le public sentait que la suite allait être explosive... Effectivement, il ne restait que 4 chansons, mais ce furent 4 grands classiques : Girls and boys, There's no other way, Parklife et Song 2 !
Le pogo devenait alors permanent, et les mecs de la sécurité récupéraient de plus en plus de slammers à l'avant. Girls and Boys n'est pas la chanson préférée de Graham Coxon, mais depuis quelque temps, il s'arrange pour durcir un peu son jeu de guitare. There's No Other Way a été chaudement acclamé, et il me semble me souvenir que Damon a fini en se balançant devant le public et en serrant quelques mains. L'intro de Parklife paraissait interminable (Graham avait l'air de bien s'amuser, et d'oublier qu'il était en train de jouer devant quelques 2000 personnes), même à Damon, qui a jeté son micro par terre d'impatience ! Les chiens avaient fini d'aboyer depuis longtemps quand le couplet commença enfin. Ils terminèrent avec Song 2, et son intro elle aussi rallongée depuis quelques concerts. Ils ne s'attardèrent pas et quittèrent la scène après nous avoir salués.
Ils ont une fois de plus donné un concert de grande qualité, où le plaisir de jouer et la complicité étaient évidents. A ceux qui ont fait courir le bruit d'une éventuelle séparation, ce concert du 15 septembre leur a montré que Blur était plus soudé que jamais, et prêts à passer tranquillement le cap du troisième millénaire.

Virginie Sabin (Two's A Crowd)

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