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Take note, world leaders: If Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon and Noel Gallagher can make peace, no international conflict is intractable.
Their bands, Blur and Oasis, respectively, were the top-two British groups of the ’90s, the flag bearers for the Britpop movement and the darlings of the press. They represented two very different classes in England; Blur, the Albarn and Coxon-led band from London, were intelligent, experimental and witty; while Oasis, northerners from Manchester, were all swagger and power and hidden tenderness.
They hated each other, competing for top singles (in a 1995 head-to-head match, Blur’s “Country House” beat out “Roll With It”) and, at one point, wishing AIDS upon the other. It made for great copy and marketing, but the rivalry was quite real.
Cut to Saturday night. Albarn, Coxon and Gallagher — who has gone solo since his latest fallout with his lead-singer brother, Liam — are on stage at Royal Albert Hall, there for the Teenage Cancer Trust charity concert.
Imagine the audience’s surprise when they appeared on stage together, Noel providing backup vocals as Albarn sang the song “Tender,” off Blur’s 1999 album 13. They were joined by Paul Weller, who was a Brit legend a generation before them, but the symbolism of Albarn and Gallagher’s collaboration was the true front-and-center story.
In fact, it’s actually a long time coming; the pair buried the hatchet in 2011 when they ran into each other and went for a drink.
“So, we’re sitting there, having a beer, just going, ‘What the f— was all that about 15 years ago? That was mental,'” Gallagher recalled in an interview with Shortlist magazine. “Then he said, ‘It was a great time, though,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, it was a f—ing good laugh.'”
Albarn spoke of the meeting last year.
“I met him in Mayfair, in a nightclub,” he said. “What normally happened in that situation was, we had a way of looking a certain way and walking past. It was like a code. But we broke the code that night, instantly. We looked at each other and said hello, and it made all the difference. A lovely man.”
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