It now actually feels a bit like it never happened. Last night, sweating furiously and surrounded by several thousand like-minded obsessives, I saw Blur at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall. They were probably better than I’d hoped. And I’d had very high hopes for this show. So utterly powerful was this Blur performance that ‘Country House’ sounded like a world beater. Seriously.
The smiles barely dropped from the faces of all four of them across the entire evening and Graham’s not especially graceful backwards roll during ‘Popscene‘ seemed to sum up how they felt about being back on stage together after nine years. Damon doesn’t appear to have aged, in fact he looks an awful lot younger than he did when promoting ‘The Good, The Bad & The Queen’ two years previous. Alex remains one of the coolest performers gracing a stage in modern music, even if he does now tuck his T-shirts in and sweat in the strangest places. After opener ‘She’s So High’ came to an end, Dave looked out at the crowd in wonder and seemed genuinely affected by the response. Rather charmingly, that same look appeared on his face after every subsequent song, resulting in him throwing his sticks crowdwards at the end of the first encore.
Musically, they sounded indecently good for a band that are only five gigs in to the return from a sizeable lay off. Graham’s much vaunted performance on ‘Out Of Time’ was subtle but wondrous and the added brass and backing singers were deployed in an understated fashion to great effect. ‘Tender’, with its multiple false endings, seemed set to reduce the entire crowd to slightly weepy, grinning idiots but it was ‘Beetlebum‘ that seemed to leave Damon choked. He took a moment to thank the audience for its response, a response that was dished out to much of the night’s setlist. The singing was near constant, the bouncing not far behind. Fair play to the slightly chubby teen who suddenly appeared next to me towards the end of the set, clearly barely able to stand, drenched in sweat and more than a little emotionally overcome. He wasn’t alone. The audience reaction was startling and, while I fully anticipated coming across as a crazed loon, I don’t think I’d quite imagined that every other attendee would be the same. Welcomed like heroes and sent on their way by minutes of applause, Blur truly delivered.
I can’t really pick a highlight as there wasn’t a moment where I wished they’d chosen a different song or a performance that didn’t quite take off. It was a consummate performance from one of our very best bands. That said, ‘For Tomorrow’, ‘This Is A Low’, ‘Popscene’, ‘Trimm Trabb’ and ‘The Universal’ were genuinely rather moving from where I was standing. Inevitably, I’ve popped a few YouTube videos below to illustrate my point, although I would still send you dashing off to the post with the videos from Colchester for some startlingly good amateur footage. Rest assured, Glastonbury has its highlight in waiting. What with Blur occupying the Sunday night slot, it’s a fairly safe bet that the majority of the set will be shown on BBC2 without too much Whiley interference. Cancel everything, turn the telly up and enjoy.
Just after posting this, I read that Steven Wells, you’ll have known him as Swells, had died at the age of 49. I am a music press obsessive and anyone who read the NME while Swells was writing for them will remember what made him such a great writer. Whatever else he was (and he oh-so-fucking-many things) he was absolutely hilarious. While so few of us that attempt to write about music ever get close to the linguistic perfection that Swells could achieve, he was an inspiration for so many people. I may have to do a detailed review of the new Bloc Party single in tribute to him tomorrow. All the best, Swells. Your time on earth will be remembered by many for a very long time.