Blur headlined a Brit-pop blowout at Hyde Park on the final day of the London 2012 Olympic games, a concert that not so coincidentally also capped off a flurry of Blur-related activity. The band celebrated its 21st anniversary in grand fashion, reissuing its catalog as deluxe double-disc sets, boxing these deluxe editions in a mammoth rarities-laden box set called Blur 21, releasing a good reunion single in "Under the Westway"/"The Puritan," and, finally, performing this concert, releasing it digitally the following week as the double-album Parklive (which is due to be expanded into a five-CD box later in the year). Given the amount of time the reunited Blur spent trawling through their back pages, it's not much of a surprise that the set list of Parklive is constructed as a chronicle of their past, one that touches lightly on their beginnings and end -- there's one song apiece from Leisure and Think Tank -- one that accentuates two through-lines in their history: the churning, darkly psychedelic art rock band and the proudly patriotic, albeit wildly sardonic, British pop group. Considering the occasion, Blur serve up plenty of the former, playing roughly half of Parklife -- Phil Daniels himself comes out to bark out the title track -- and have fun digging deep, playing "London Loves," which has rarely ever been played on-stage. This isn't the only rarity here -- they haul out the Modern Life Is Rubbish B-side "Young and Lovely," which Damon Albarn introduces with a preamble dedicating it to the band's children, an acknowledgment of Blur's advancing years, a subject he also alludes to by changing a lyric on "End of a Century" to "as you get closer to 50." Blur are indeed now 20 years on from their '90s peak and it's evident in the music: where they were once frenetic they are now muscular and Albarn's ambition has mellowed into a quiet confidence. The passing of time has only increased Blur's stature as a British treasure and this is a concert that suits their status: it's crowd-pleasing without pandering, the knotty "Caramel" and "Trimm Trabb" fitting neatly next to "Sunday Sunday," the new "Under the Westway" gaining resonance when placed near "Sing" and "For Tomorrow." The latter is just enough to suggest that Blur could continue to build upon their legacy, but if this turns out to be a farewell, it is one that is triumphant.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2