So, one of the main reasons I went to London earlier this month was to see Blur play their Hyde Park shows. Blur have been my wife's favorite band since she was around 15 years old and we catch them live anytime they come around New York. However, the band hasn't been together for a few years, and even for a few years before that they were splintered a bit with Graham having left the band. So when it was announced in late winter that all four original members would reform to play a gig in Hyde Park...there was no question about it, we were going to make the trip to London.
It was supposed to be their big return, but of course they played some warm-up shows (which is to be expected) and Glastonbury (which wasn't to be expected and kind of put a damper on the importance of the Hyde Park gigs...but not really). Then the big thing was that they announced a second Hyde Park show..THE DAY BEFORE THE FIRST ONE!! Well, we had to get tix for this new one two. We weren't about to settle for the second show.
Arriving in London, we knew exactly what we were doing on the first two nights there. We were going to see Blur in the park with 55,000 other people, and by people, I mean drunken Londoners. Taking the stage about a half-before sunset, Blur were triumphant form the first song to the last. The best-of setlist really showcased for me what an amazing catalog they have, not that I ever questioned it, but when you hear them all together like that...wow...spectacular. Add in a swelling crowd being showered by a consistent barrage of thrown beer bottles shouting along with every word, it was legendary. Easily one of the best concerts (I count both them as one for the sake of this post) I've been too.
And for fun...a list of the best concerts I've ever been to:
#10: Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Aug. 16th, 1996, Camden NJ - Neil reunited with Crazy Horse for this tour and I went with my friend Dan to see this show. Neil was incredible...his voice, his guitar work...everything was great. Outdoors, evening, smoking...good show.
#9: New Kingdom - Sept. 7th, 1996 Wetlands, NYC: This show was crazy. Again with Dan, we were waiting in the audience for them to come, and two guys pushed past us, turns out, it was the band, who entered the stage from the crowd. They tore it up, crazy freak stylin'. At one point, the guy next to Dan asked to borrow his lighter...only to hold it up, lit in the air.
#8: Placebo (with David Bowie) - March 29th, 1999, Irving Plaza NYC: They were actually the opening band that night, but my wife (then girlfriend) and I went to see Placebo. They played a great set. And during the set, everyone noticed Bowie sitting in the balcony. After the set, they came back out for an encore, which is rare for an opening band. And before they started playing, they announced "This is New York and in New York, special things happen..." the place went crazy as Bowie joined them for 3 songs.
#7: The Verve - November 5th & 6th, 1997: Far and away my favorite band at the time, my friends Chris & Chris came up from Philly to stay with me the two nights for these shows. It was definitely two days of fogginess, but the shows were religious. On the afternoon of the second show, we were eating at Around the Clock on 9th Street and saw Mad Richard eating there as well. The night after the second show, the apartment under mine caught on fire...
#6: Blur - July 2nd & 3rd, 2009, Hyde Park London- see above. Two great shows, perfect atmosphere, perfect sets, two perfect nights.
#5: Elvis Perkins in Dearland - June 25th, 2008, Colony Cafe, Woodstock NY: The only great local concert I've seen since moving upstate. I was excited for this show, but had no idea how amazing it was going to be. They played a lot (at the time) new stuff, which blew me away. I shook Elvis's hand after the show, which was pretty thrilling.
#4: The White Stripes - April 7th, 2002, Bowery Ballroom NYC: I've seen the White Stripes play every tour, seen them on both coasts, in two countries, and every time they are incredible. This show makes the list because there was a rare energy to it. The crowd, the band, the timing...there was a sense of experiencing something big. This four night Bowery residency is often sited as the shows the really broke this band from indie giants to just plain GIANTS.
#3: Roky Erickson - Friday the 13th, April 2007, South Paw Brooklyn: One of my heroes, I couldn't believe when it was announced he would play his first ever gig in NYC and that I was going. In the late '60s when the 13th Floor Elevators broke, they never made it to NYC before Roky's incarceration. Then he never played in the '70's and '80's...then he was gone for a long time, lost in untreated mental illness....this was his triumphant return. It was obvious he was a bit overwhelmed by the immense love from the audience, and played appreciatively.
#2: Guns N Roses - May 17, 2006 Hammerstein Ballroom NYC: A lifetime goal to see one of my favorite bands was finally achieved. I'd gone to see GNR a few years before in Philly, they were a no show and it ended in riot. But this show they did play (of course, not going on until after midnight) but when they did...hell yeah! It should be known, that I actually love the new line-up and wasn't one of these, "it's not even the same band" people. Axl is the show and he was revved up. To top it off, Izzy joined him onstage for a Izzy penned songs which haven't been played in years (Patience being one). It was historic.
#1: Neutral Milk Hotel - July 25, 1998 Bowery Ballroom NYC: My friend Dan and I had been listening to Aeroplane Over the Sea the entire summer, loving every note, when they came around. We went, watched the show from the top front of the balcony. Word can't describe how good it was...and how sad that band kind of disappeared not too long afterward. I doubt, even I knew the future of the band, that I could have cherished the show any more than I already did.
As for the future...I just got tickets to see the Manics in October. They're playing NYC for the first time in 10 years. I've been dying to see them for years now. I have no doubt this show will find a place on this list in a few short months