Live Review

Open’er 2013: Day One

Good things come to those who wait. For Poland, who waited 23 years to see this Blur set tonight– well, they cannot be disappointed now.

Photo: Tomek Kaminski
We spend the majority of our first day in Poland marvelling at the price of alcohol, and after blundering around the forest in our minibus worrying about stumbling across a stray bear, wolf, or lynx all the while, we eventually find Babie Doly airfield. We accidentally drive straight into the backstage Artist’s Area. It’s very swanky. There is a huge disused green tunnel with peeling paint – a relic from the site’s days as a World War Two airfield. A certain Damon, Graham, Alex, and Dave are probably the four guys sat in a ring having a casual pint. It would be a great story to say we ambled over and bought them all a drink (of Heineken, obviously - more on that later) but sadly no. We’re bundled back on the minibus quick-sharp instead and carted away to a safe distance where we can’t hijack the headline slot.

Amid all this frivolity and confusion we miss Savages. We’re gutted, but tonight’s headliner means there’s little time to sulk and feel sorry for ourselves. It’s Blur’s first show in Poland. ‘So it has taken us 23 years to come to Poland,” says Damon Albarn after the storming opener ‘Girls & Boys’. “It’s really lovely to be here.’

It’s lovely to have Blur here too. The extra sense of occasion only adds to the sheer electrifying impact the band have onstage, and they look so at ease in front of the massive crowd that – blame our early morning flight, or blame the height of the quality bar set tonight - it makes us feel a bit emotional. ‘Country House’ is undoubtedly the highlight, as Albarn performs the entire song whilst standing on the front barrier, completely ignoring security’s summoning tugs at his waistband. A sped-up version of ‘Parklife’ follows, a beautiful rendition of ‘Tender’ and the Coxon-led ‘Coffee and TV’. Although the limelight is largely on Albarn, Coxon quietly shines too, and it’s clear why he’s hailed as one of the greatest guitarists around. His solos are blistering and soaring, executed to perfection, but with a likeable onstage modesty. As the band bound off the stage after ‘Under The Westway’, there’s a distinctive howling sound passing across the crowd. After keeping us waiting and wailing for more, Albarn and Co return. ‘For Tomorrow’ and ‘The Universal’ sparkle with nostalgia, but the howling continues. Of course, everybody is waiting for one song, or rather ‘Song 2’. After teasing the crowd with an opening riff, Blur throw themselves into it headlong, and the festival embraces it with boundless enthusiasm. Good things come to those who wait. For Poland, who waited 23 years to see this Blur set tonight– well, they cannot be disappointed now.

In a rather abrupt mood change, the letters TDE flash up on the big screens – Top Dawg Entertainment are in town. The whole crowd is jumping along to ‘N***** in Paris’, and it’s apparent that whoever is on next is intending to work his crowd up into a frenzy. By the time Kendrick Lamar comes on to ‘The Art Of Peer Pressure’’s jazzy piano intro, energy levels are sky-high. ‘Backstreet Freestyle’ sees Open’er descend into sheer flailing madness, with the whole crowd yelling “I pray my dick get big as the Eiffel Tower/ So I can fuck the world for 72 hours”. It’s certainly a complete switch from Blur earlier, but the new dynamic is equally brilliant. ‘Money Trees’ is another swaying highlight, and what strikes you most is Kendrick Lamar’s style of stage presence. He’s confident, without fault, and his flow is effortless, but there’s not a hint of arrogance there. “Do y’all know my album ‘good kid, m.A.A.D city’?” he asks Poland. It’s practically a rhetorical question, answered by the die-hards at the front, who know every single word to ‘Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe’. The only thing that slightly takes the sheen off the set is that Lamar is apparently the on-site representative for festival sponsor Heineken. Almost every piece of stage banter revolves around the yeasty elixir. ‘Swimming Pool (Drank)’ even turns into ‘Heineken (Drank)’. It wears a little thin after a while, and we even grow tired of making till noises and shouting “zloty!” every time he crams in another product plug. Surely the point of sponsorship is to encourage people to buy a product, but with Heineken being the only beer available, it is literally being rammed down our throats. After this week we swear we will never touch it again.

That said, hey, once Rihanna comes to the stage on Sunday and starts throwing HTC mobiles all over the shop, Kendrick Lamar will seem like an anti-corporate hippy. Lamar’s encore is ‘Cartoons and Cereal’ - the leaked track of 2012 featuring Gunplay of Triple C’s. It delights the hardcore fans and newcomers alike, wrapping up with a freestyle from Lamar saying he’ll be back, and it’s a triumphant lesson in hip-hop from a rising talent. Despite the lyrics of the encore, he has nothing to prove.

In another strange juxtaposition we wind up at Crystal Castles, which is - well, everything you can expect from Alice Glass and a bursting tent crammed full of beer-filled youths. Tent poles are being scaled, dystopian lights are transforming the entire place into a icy blue furnace. It is with quite substantial effort and wiggling under elbows that we are actually able to get within the physical confines of the tent, and once we do, it’s wild and riotous. ‘Crimewave’ is especially abrasive and screeching, set on top of endless blops and a thumpingly loud bass. More recent material seems even more apocalypse ready. Crystal Castles are a tough prospect to connect with emotionally, but the madness is tempting. As a friend in the crowd points out, Crystal Castles sound like how your granny imagines all youngsters’ dance music sounds. In reality, thought, they’re at the very dirtiest, grimiest, most messed-up end of the scale, and they wind up our first night in Gdynia in blinding fashion.

Tags: Blur, Features

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