Live at the Budokan

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In front of a quite appreciative audience -- if they don't generate the same level of hysteria as Cheap Trick did in the same venue some years before, they get close -- Blur recorded this Japanese-only two-disc effort. It's an album hardcore fans will definitely want to find and more casual followers should also keep an eye out for, drawing mostly from Modern Life is Rubbish onward (aside from a somewhat pedestrian run-through of "She's So High"). Recorded during the group's 1995 tour for The Great Escape -- the set itself starts with a delightful marching band gone art-punk version of the original movie's main theme -- Live conclusively demonstrates that in concert Blur is Coxon's band, not Albarn's. Even at his most economical, Coxon demonstrates a fine ability to spike up a song's energy. When given the opportunity on louder numbers, he blasts out feedback power like nobody's business. James and Rowntree's rhythm section doesn't falter in the slightest either, and together, the three simply go for it in grand style, pumping up calmer studio cuts with vigor and transforming rockers like "Popscene" into thrashy monsters. They know when to play it cool and calm, though, so songs like "To the End" and an affecting, appropriate take on "Yuko and Hiro" benefit from the combination of live bite and arranged drama. Albarn in contrast seems somewhat tired at points and a parody of himself at his most English at others, undercutting what should have been an all-around commanding show. He does have moments to shine, though, including winning renditions of "Girls and Boys" and "This is a Low." Special note should be given to the all-around packaging, based on an airport/flying theme in the style of The Great Escape's design. The live shots inside are all quite fine, including a quite lovely one of pin-up bassist James.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:35
2 3:11
3 3:09
4 2:54
5 4:07
6 5:00
7 4:16
8 4:18
9 3:11
10 3:27
11 5:23
12 4:50
13 3:26
14 1:37
15 1:49
16 6:24
17 4:38
18 5:10
19 3:23
blue highlight denotes track pick