Dave Rowntree on “the most shambolic” Blur performance

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No artist is safe from falling prey to a mediocre show. Even though they may try to put their all into making the best experience possible for the fans, there comes a point where the energy tends to fall flat once everyone takes the stage. Although Blur has had a natural ability to make every show a special experience for each audience member, one gig will live in infamy for the rest of their days.

Then again, the Britpop legends have always dealt with more than a few hangups when getting the ball rolling. For all of the great music that they made on their records, it took a while before they cultivated the fanbase they were looking for, going from shoegaze-adjacent music on their first record to becoming the 1990s answer to The Kinks on albums like Parklife.

As the band started to make big waves in the English music scene, they developed another problem when being put next to Oasis. While the band always took the animosity with a grain of salt, frontman Damon Albarn remembered playing into the chaos as well, including booking shows in cities the same night that the Gallagher brothers were due to take the stage.

Once the Britpop everglow started to fade, they ran into problems finding out where they should go next. Across their more art-rock-focused answer to Parklife, The Great Escape, tensions began boiling over about where to take the music, all while Albarn began ruminating on the sonic ideas for Gorillaz.

Taking to the road, the band were asked to perform for the Sanremo Festival in Italy, only to run into problems when guitarist Graham Coxon failed to show up. While the band attempted to make a mockery of their lip-synched performance with a cutout of Coxon, things escalated when bassist Alex James didn’t show up, having missed his flight to the gig.

Since the show must go on, Albarn and drummer Dave Rowntree took to the stage that night with their bodyguard, affectionately known as Smoggy, sitting in on bass. Even though the audience took the whole performance in stride, Rowntree remembered the show as a low point for the band’s camaraderie and their career as a live band.

When talking about his experience to Louder, Rowntree would say that he knew that it was one of the worst gigs they had ever played before he even left the stage, saying, “Halfway through the song, the cardboard cutout of Graham fell over, and when Damon walked over and stood it upright again the audience burst into applause. It’s the most shambolic performance by Blur possible. Whenever a gig has gone badly, one of us will bring it up, and it makes everything seem all right in comparison”.

Needing a break from each other, the band would eventually go on hiatus for a few years, with Coxon moving on to a solo career and Albarn making the virtual band Gorillaz with illustrator Jamie Hewlett. Although the band may have had their ups and downs since the early 2000s, it’s better to have a few hiccups during a live show than having to perform with only half a band by your side.

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