Saw Blur at Glastonbury on TV on Sunday. Made more poignant by the fact that my brother was there and my parents live down the road. I was there a couple of years ago and treasure those precious moments when the crowd catches light and many thousands of people are sharing a note, a shout, a refrain, a glimpse of sunset. Outdoor concerts are magic.
But none as magic as Blur on Sunday. Damon Albarn on blazing form, the songs as strong and wonderful as ever – Girls and Boys, Country House, Parklife, – and the crowd transported. At one point, Damon finished a song and the crowd just carried on with the refrain. Thousands of them, in a Somerset field at sunset, all singing their hearts out. It was tear-jerking. I so longed to be with them. Jo Whiley did a brilliant job of capturing the mood (before the BBC had to show a bunch of other bands for contractual reasons and the moment was lost).
Best of all, for me (and my husband got a teeny bit fed up about this, because I didn’t neglect to mention it a few times) was Alex James. Now, Alex James borders on sexy even when he’s a not-a-size-ten cheese farmer talking about Wensleydale. He gets even more sexy when you realise what a good writer he is. And he is TOTALLY, DROP-DEAD sexy when he’s in skin-tight trousers and a baggy tee-shirt (congrats on the fitness regime, Mr James), being The Coolest Bass Player In The World, in the coolest band in the world, just owning Glastonbury. And this was, I might add, mere minutes after Bruce Springsteen had been on. Bruce had very definitely borrowed Glastonbury for a while, but Blur gave him a masterclass in possessing it totally.
It’s not mainly that Alex James plays bass very well. Not for me, anyway. To be honest, I can’t really tell. It’s that he looks totally cool while he’s doing it, and the music the band is playing is FABULOUS, and I happen to know that when he’s not doing this he’s being a country gent, a father and a farmer, and a writer for the Spectator, among others, and that basically, if he couldn’t be bothered with the music any more he could just be Stephen Fry, if he felt like it. Except prettier and more heterosexual.
So I got home from my stint at the library on Monday (where I finished book 2 yay yay yay yay) and found the Spectator lying on the bed, and read it to see if by any chance Mr James might have mentioned his comeback. And he had. He talks about the danger of blowing his own trumpet, but I’m so glad he did, because if he hadn’t dared to I wouldn’t have had the intense, vicarious pleasure of picturing him in a photo-shoot, the day after Blur’s first triumphant comeback date at Goldsmiths, being treated like a dumb model and being asked if he ‘still does music at all’. Of him saying ‘Oh yes, sometimes’, and rather liking the ethereally beautiful stylist’s assistant (who helped him on and off with his trousers and asked quietly how the gig had gone), and then of the moment when the news came on the radio that Blur had done the gig and that it was stupendous. And of him grinning like a Cheshire cat.
Not many people get to live that moment. And how many of those have the wit and articulacy to describe it? And how many are simultaneously as sexy as Alex James? In the Spectator. Who’d have thought?
Update: 23 Nov 09
Just received my free copy of the Blur live 2009 CD from the Sunday Times. Listening to it, I realised that Tender was the song that provoked that incredible Glastonbury response. Some of which is on the CD. So I can reply that moment whenever I like. Though not quite with the same intensity of memory that Damon, Alex and the others can. I read their responses to that concert in the paper, and they thought it was pretty special too. The best live experience they’d ever had, in fact. So it wasn’t just me, then.