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SHOW REVIEW: The World of Blur: Discovering the Mysteries of Blue Shirts, Balloons, and Brilliance.
By: Breann Purcell

To go or not to go, that was the question. My friend and I were stuck in traffic coming home from a local radio show and pondering whether or not to go to the upcoming Blur show. The tickets were cheap enough and they were playing our favorite venue, The Electric Factory in Philadelphia. The Factory is a small, standing room-only, fiercely loud concert hall. In other words, the perfect place to see a band that we hardly knew. Coincidentally or not, (maybe the rock gods intervened) just as we decided to go, the band's ferocious single "Song 2" roared onto the radio, sealing our impending date with destiny. What destiny delivered was a thorough initiation into the mysteries of Blur, namely, the discovery of a brilliant band, the variety of Blur fans, and the wacky world of live music.

On June 10, 1997, four curious people entered The Electric Factory, which for that night anyway, was owned by Blur and their particular breed of fans. What we knew of Blur wasn't really all that much. We had heard "Sing" from the Trainspotting soundtrack and "Song 2", of course, and I had heard and was very much impressed by "The Universal". Actually, I had been aware of Blur for quite some time and the fact that they had been an innovative band long before their buzz clip status (Hello MTV?), yet I had never gotten around to seriously checking them out. Inside, we stood through, according to my friend who was familiar with them, a limp That Dog set and a lengthy intermission. Then, with all the nonchalance of walking into a local supermarket, Blur strolled onto the stage. I was charmed. They opened with "Beetlebum" the first song from their new album, Blur. "Beetlebum" is more or less a tribute to sex, beginning dreamily and sliding into a soaring chorus infused with sleepy sexual tension. Damon Albarn, Blur's lead singer, was highly entertaining, bouncing into speakers, pouring water everywhere, and holding his microphone like an MC ready to rock the house. His voice sounds best with a rough edge and it was razor sharp on this early stop in Blur's campaign to conquer America. Also amusing was bassist Alex James' dancing, which he obliviously performed from time to time during the set. Unfortunately, I could not see either guitarist Graham Coxon or drummer Dave Rowntree for more than a second from my great vantage point on the far end of the stage. The main entertainment, though, was the rollicking, thrashing songs. Hard, fast, and pleasingly deafening, Blur revealed their formula for waking up America and proved themselves, without a doubt, talented musicians. Every hook was displayed and forced to a Mach 10 level, making the beautiful-"To The End"-captivating and the roaring-"Chinese Bombs"-deadly. Blur did one encore, saving "Song 2" until the anticipation was explosive, and ended with a breathtaking version of "Sing".

Arriving at the show, my friends and I wondered, "Who are Blur fans?" and we were promptly answered. Some were there for "Song 2" alone and others were there to experience their fifth or sixth Blur show. Of course, as with all bands there was the original, hardcore fanbase, who sneered at the Song 2-ites and sat back to aesthetically judge "their" band. The jocks with their cheerleader girlfriends, as for some strange reason all new Blur fans are assumed to be, appropriately moshed to almost every song. Also in the audience were some Brits, there to see a home town band kick some Yank-booty. My view was assaulted several times by some American girls with a Union Jack until they were whisked away to crowd surf. God save the Queen. Overall, Blur fans are cool just watch where you mosh and downplay your love for "Song 2".

A few eventful things happened during this surprising and successful show. During the first few songs the squawking of the sound system pissed Damon off entirely yet he moved thoughtfully back from his microphone before addressing the sound guy. A girl in the front row ripped her shirt off much to the delight of Alex, who laughingly beamed at her. A condom balloon floated by my head occasionally along with a beach ball. Some people on the bar balcony threw an odd assortment of items down to us commoners; everything from empty cups to lighters. Also on display were common Blur sights: Damon's spastic dancing, Alex smoking through the whole show, Graham wearing his signature glasses and Damon wearing a blue shirt.

"Now, what did we learn, boys and girls?" asked my friend after we walked giddily back to the car clutching our requisite concert shirts. What did we learn? Well, we discovered that Blur is a powerful, intense band about to ambush the final frontier of America. They charmed my friends and I directly to the record store to buy a CD or two and to search hungrily through our back issues of Rolling Stone. Blur fans are a decent lot, all you have to do is avoid maniacal, flag-bearing chicks, the lost in thought intellectuals, who are systematically comparing this version of "Jubliee" with every version that they have other heard, and guys with "Meat" tattooed across their arms trying to mosh you into the parking lot. Blur have been together for eight years and have produced five albums during that time. From what I have witnessed, there is definitely more albums, condom balloons, intellectual analyzing, blue shirts, and brilliant songs in Blur's future.

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