August 15th, 2012 9:59am
How We Like To Sing Along
As of this writing, I have purchased six official Blur live releases and have acquired at least five other high-quality quality recordings of the band in concert. (I spent money on a few of those too, because it was the 90s, and you had to pay for that sort of thing back then.) I can say with some confidence and a high degree of authority that Parklive, the band’s latest live album, is the best of the lot, or at least on par with my beloved Art School Rocks in Feedback Frenzy! bootleg from the 1997 tour.
The performances in Parklive are great, but the quality really comes down to an excellent engineering and mixing job that captures the energy and sound of the band as well as the vast open air audience, who sing along and elevate the performance with their enthusiastic participation. Capturing the sound of the audience is crucial in a top-quality live document – ideally, the power of a live show is about the dynamic between what’s happening on stage and in the crowd. All through Parklive, you can hear this extraordinarily excited audience egg on the band, resulting in the best and most ecstatic live rendition of “Song 2″ I’ve ever encountered, a gloriously goofy “Parklife,” and a heartbreakingly sweet extended breakdown at the end “Tender.” You can go back to the band’s previous live album from 2009, recorded at the same venue and featuring mostly the same songs, and while it’s a good performance, the people are so much more faint. The power isn’t there.
“The Universal” has pushed me to the edge of tears a few times recently, and each time it was kind of a surprise because I was in a good, stable mood until its sentiment stirred something in me. The tone of the song is very bitter and ironic, but somehow the phony optimism of the chorus goes full circle to earnest hopefulness, and the cynicism gets purified by the schmaltz. It’s a very English sort of thing – having those defenses up, but embracing it when the thought of accepting misery becomes too much to bear. Hearing all these people sing along to “it really really really could happen” is both heart-warming and tiny bit soul-crushing, because you just hear all these people affirming their connection to this painful emotional compromise.
Buy it from iTunes.