Washed out, gone to seed and clear as mud

Glastonbury Festival; BLUR

JUST BEFORE Blur came on stage on Saturday night, some wag in the audience hoisted an oversized pair of comedy Y-fronts on a stick. In a sea of inflatable hands and jesters hats, this doesn't qualify as unusual. But after a while, those underpants came to feel worryingly like a critical appraisal.

At the peak of their powers, Blur could bring atmosphere to the moon. At last year's V97 festival, or at their own Mile End show in 1995, their vivacity was irresistible. There has never been anything very subtle about their live shows, but they have always managed to locate the intimate little nooks and crannies in the dubious phenomenon of the stadium gig. Not at Glastonbury, though. From the moment the band appeared, they seemed less interested in moving the audience than in removing themselves from the stage as quickly as possible.

One of the defining characteristics of Damon Albarn's stage persona is his matey warmth, though even that was in short supply.

"Nice turn out," he observed, surveying the crowd which stretched as far as the fields would allow. Later, he dedicated "End of a Century" to the daytime television host Judy Finnegan; the most stimulating his conversation got was when he asked us if we had seen the TV series Stella Street. No one was holding their breath waiting for a Wildean epigram, but you had to concede that those enormous Y-fronts possibly had rather more charisma than he did. The band's playing wasn't much sparkier than Albarn's banter. They opened with a version of "Girls and Boys" that was muddier than the ground that you had spent the weekend trudging through. "On Your Own" followed, providing one of those moments when everyone in the audience turns to their neighbour with that expression which says: "Is it me, or is this out of tune?"

Pleasingly crunchy guitar noises and space invader bleeps introduced the song but then it dissolved into discordant chaos which even the term "experimental" couldn't excuse. Each member of the band seemed to be relating to his colleagues via satellite link-up, putting them a few seconds behind or ahead of each other.

There were some songs which even perverse arrangements couldn't destroy. "Popscene" was polished off with cruel intensity, the brass section swooping over Graham Coxon's scratchy guitar line with incongruous grandeur. There was a sour-sweet "Beetlebum" and a lush, protracted "For Tomorrow" which gave the brass section another chance to take us to those parts which Blur can't reach on their own. A new song, written for the animated series South Park, was an unexpected pleasure, a bluesy ramble featuring the refrain "I lost my girl to the Rolling Stones". But it was a mistake to resurrect the banal early song "Slow Down", which reminded us of the days when all Blur wanted was to be Ride, especially on an evening when they came close to realising that ambition.

It was, hopefully for one night only, Blur on autopilot - rent-a-headliners available for weddings, bar mitzvahs, festivals and, on this evidence, funerals too.

Ryan Gilbey

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions