Though Blur was one of the most popular bands of the Britpop era, the group wasn’t known for the power of its live performances. However, Parklive is a cheeky hand gesture at detractors of this band’s legacy and talent. Parklive was recorded at Hyde Park at the closing of the London Summer Olympics, and that pride and nationalistic spirit make the perfect backdrop for Blur’s particular brand of music.
Longtime Blur fans will be delighted by the two hours of content on this record. Every studio LP in the band’s discography is represented, though there’s an emphasis on the band’s peak with Parklife. The songs from that record in particular are lyrically focused on urban characters caught up in difficult times in their life. Phil Daniels, of Quadrophenia fame, reprises his lead vocals on “Parklife,” making for a rather entertaining, lighthearted interlude.
But this isn’t just a concert of upbeat singles, though those are well-represented. Blur also broke out several fan favorites, like the tender B-side, “Young and Lovely,” the haunting, clattering “Caramel” and the beautifully simplistic “Sing,” which was probably better known for having appeared in the film Trainspotting than it was for appearing on Blur’s debut album.
Parklive is more than demonstration that a band can put aside its differences and reunite to play together and write again. (The new single, “Under the Westway,” stands up with any of the band’s previous output in terms of quality and charm.) It’s a brilliantly executed live album that can jump from the frenetic “Popscene” to the mournful “No Distance Left to Run” with few songs between. This is a decade of style, evolution, heartbreak and reunion packed into two hours, and it is a true treat.