In the end, it was Blur's night.
Drenge may have booted this instalment of Barclaycard British Summertime firmly in the crotch, The Horrors may have been regal and Metronomy ever-engrossing, but – truly – this was Blur's occasion.
Even the rain couldn't dampen spirits, with the grey London skies clearing just in time for the headline act, the sodden turf underfoot maintaining just enough grip for the capacity crowd.
The stage seemed to deliver the message even before the band arrived onstage. A fusion of Far East and British references, the show opens with Phil Daniels in an ice cream van, the blur of Tokyo neon reflecting in the windscreen.
Erupting into 'Go Out' it's clear that Blur are a revitalised unit. Graham Coxon is shy, bashful, while Alex James slopes between amplifiers, a cigarette dangling nonchalantly from his lips. Damon Albarn is perhaps the most imposing figure, though: bounding around onstage, all gold teeth and bomber jacket, his performance is one part Johnny Rotten and one part Artful Dodger.
A direct, and distinctly current performance, Blur pepper a classic-laden set list with tracks from 'The Magic Whip'. Sitting perfectly in between, the rauncy strum of 'Beetlebum' gives way to fresh cut 'Thought I Was A Spaceman'; a glacial 'End Of The Century' fades into 'I Broadcast'.
A lengthy 'Tender' brings one of the set's most emotional moments, the crowd echoing those lengthy, gospel-driven, call and response harmonies. Graham Coxon fires feedback-laden guitar lines into the mixture, while Dave Rowntree's steady drums provide the foundation to build on.
Phil Daniels makes a welcome appearance on 'Parklife', with Damon Albarn handing out ice creams to the crowd. It's a celebratory singalong, with 'The Magic Whip' standout 'Ong Ong' then giving way to a feral, grunge-fuelled 'Song 2' workout.
'To The End' is given a sharp, emotionally taut rendition, before Blur wave farewell to the crowd following an epic, soaring 'This Is A Low'. Returning to open the encore with 'Stereotypes' a false start on Britpop anthem 'Girls & Boys' raises a wry grin from Damon Albarn. Plunging into 'For Tomorrow', it's left to traditional final track 'The Universal' to see out the night.
Blur's previous Hyde Park performance in 2012 felt like a celebration, the post-Olympic set wringing out new meaning from the band's catalogue. Tonight, though, is less about looking back than looking forward: Blur make few concessions to their past, infusing familiar tracks with a stunning sense of energy.
'The Magic Whip' stands its ground, allowing fresh nuance to creep into the band's performance. A wonderful validation of one of Britain's most precious groups, Blur have rarely been this majestic, this passionate, this imperial. A performance rooted in the here and now, this is a band living for the moment and loving every second.
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