Blur & America: Together Again–At Least Through the Channel of Williamsburg

The British musician’s rapport with American audiences has never exactly been a solid one. From having to woo (hoo) us with just the right single (see: The Smiths, Pulp) to being forced to play said single at every live show for appeasement, it’s no wonder it can be such a challenge to get the Brits to cross the pond on a regular basis.

Graham, the shy boi
Graham, the shy boi
And yet Blur, to make up for their infrequent appearances on American soil, offered to play a free show at Music Hall of Williamsburg on May 1st for the Converse Rubber Tracks series (Damon, during the performance noted, “We’d like to thank Converse and John Cohen, but mainly John Cohen,” as a nod to the fact that, in spite of Blur’s age, they haven’t fully succumbed to the corporateness of music).
Damon, back in his groove
Damon, back in his groove
While the insistence printed on the ticket assured that doors would open at 5, it turned out to be more like 5:45. Nonetheless, die-hard and lukewarm fans alike were willing to endure the chilly spring air coming in from the Williamsburg waterfront and the manhandling demands to “back up” with ease. The show started at around 6:15 with Brooklyn-based band Honduras opening (perhaps selected because they sound a bit like an early incarnation of Blur) and lead singer Pat Philips thanking the audience at the end with, “You’ve been really fucking sweet to us.” After about another twenty-five minutes, Blur finally took the stage, casually and coolly as though they’d just seen the audience a week ago.

Mimicking the same performance of the entire The Magic Whip album they did at London club Mode, Blur opened with “Lonesome Street” and played everything from their first record since 2003 except for “Ice Cream Man” (Damon apologized, “We’re not confident with that one yet”) and bonus instrumental track “Y’all Doomed.” The vibe onstage was a jovial one, with Damon hugging all three of his bandmates at one point to further prove that any bad blood between them has dissipated.
Alex James, lookin' proud
Alex James, lookin’ proud
They then pretended to leave the stage in proper rock band form, only to return to perform three encores that included “Beetlebum,” “Trouble in the Message Centre,” and, as though to prove placating Americans is necessary, “Song 2” a.k.a “Woo Hoo” to the poseurs. The quartet then left, with Dave Rowntree, humble man that he is, the last to leave so that he could toss his drumsticks to the buzzards of the audience. It was, indeed, a worthwhile wait (both for a new album and an American performance) to see the four so happy playing with one another again.