Not just another Brit press hype generator, Manchester’s Blur has managed to break away from the unfulfilled promises and creative black holes that have tripped up many of its U.K. contemporaries.
Big stars back home (the band’s latest, “Parklife,” debuted at No. 1 on British charts), yet on the outside looking in here in the states, Blur makes a play for American respectability with an approach that recalls both Ray Davies’ glum look at life in a rut and Gary Numan’s synth-rich beats.
At the Palace, frontman Damon Albarn mindlessly twirled through cuts from his band’s three Food/SBK releases. Not the most engaging of lead singers, the boyish Albarn looks to his snappy bandmates for concert salvation.
And it’s Blur’s musicians who hold the key to any success the band may find stateside. While Albarn meanders his way through tales of bleak surroundings and limited financial prospects (not exactly themes Americans go nuts for), the group’s players toss off tasty jams of dance-floor frivolity and spirit, best demonstrated on the recent “Girls and Boys.”
Other notable moments included the infectious pure pop of “There’s No Other Way” (from the quartet’s ultimately superior “Leisure” debut; more fun, less angst), the Ian Drury-like droll of “Parklife’s” title track, and the burned-out fright of “Tracy Jacks,” as well as an uncredited punk cover.