Surprise guests won’t make the TikTok generation care about Blur

Surprise guests won’t make the TikTok generation care about Blur

Surprise guests won’t make the TikTok generation care about Blur, and that’s fine, because the handful of dads mooching around near the back of the crowd were having a lovely time – as was Damon Albarn – despite reports to the contrary.

By now, the clip of Albarn bemoaning Coachella’s infamously stationary crowd for not singing along to “Girls & Boys” has been viewed a few million times. In isolation, it paints a picture of a moody bloke who is wildly out of touch with his surroundings. “You’ll never see us again,” he raved. What you might not have seen is a more nuanced speech about how he’s very aware that Blur are from a different era. Most of their songs are older than the average audience member.

Which is very true: the majority of the festival were not at Blur. They were probably elsewhere, perhaps watching Grimes have a x2 speed meltdown inside her giant spider. But Blur were not playing to an empty crowd, and in the defence of those in attendance, this was not a “play the hits” festival set. The band were joined by the Desert Cahuilla Bird Singers to sing through lesser-known numbers from last year’s The Ballad of Darren. It was a thoughtful gesture, and offered a real alternative to the droves of pop acts littering the bill, but it was hardly going to get people fired up.

And yes, it feeds into the cliche that the atmosphere at Coachella is often lacking. But Albarn is clearly not the only one to notice, as rapper Tyler, The Creator, who headlined the same stage hours later, remarked: “The crowd can be dead as hell.” This coming from an artist who is, unlike Blur, is perfect Coachella fodder. And the crowd wasn’t dead in this instance: for the aptly titled “EARFQUAKE” featuring Charlie Wilson, Tyler instigates one of the largest heartfelt sing-alongs of the weekend.

Then again, maybe all Blur needed was a guest appearance. Maybe they should have brought Will Smith on for an absolutely no-context rendition of “Men in Black” – it didn’t seem to do J Balvin any harm. Or, failing that, a game of corn hole with Paris Hilton and Abraham Lincoln, a la Vampire Weekend. These guest appearances are great dopamine hits, but it quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where every performance feels as though it will live or die depending on who joins them on stage. Thirty-five minutes into Khruangbin’s colourful psychedelia, guests found themselves wondering whether Leon Bridges would appear for “Texas Sun”, instead of being “present” and enjoying the music.

But Blur did it all on their own terms. Yes, he never got the reaction he wanted from “Girls & Boys”, but he did get it from “Song 2”, a track he pointed out “had been so good to us”. He also remarked that he saw a TikTok of it “being performed by a vacuum cleaner, which is humbling and inspiring at the same time and I think all the best things in life are like that”.

Despite his supposed moaning, Damon will be back for weekend two. These seven days of news stories have been a great PR campaign for drumming up a bigger crowd.