Blur @Wolverhampton Civic Hall 24/06/09

June 30, 2009 by  

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Its midnight and I’ve just unlocked the door to my flat. My clothes are soaking wet and clinging to me – but it isn’t raining. My eyeliner is smudged across my face and my hair is a damp and matted mess. I can feel the familiar aches and pains of bruised ribs, ringing ears, a sore throat, tender feet and total, utter, can’t-stop-grinning joy.

Three hours ago the lights dimmed at Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall and a tightly packed crowd went completely wild. The opening strains of ‘She’s So High’ washed over us, cleansing away any shadows of doubt or cynicism or anxiety that this gig wasn’t going to be as good as we hoped. Suddenly, there they were, the band that defined an era, a genre and a coming-of-age – playing like they’d never been away.

You may have sussed by now that I bloody love Blur, and I was filled with a mix of excitement and dread as the rumours about their reformation became reality. Although they kicked off with a slightly predictable introduction (they opened with ‘She’s So High’ in Colchester last week) the early gem was delivered with an urgency and freshness that made it sound brand new. The urgency continued as they rattled through the set list, with the more familiar ‘Girls and Boys’ getting the crowd bouncing in time and then a quick run through ‘Tracy Jacks’ – an unexpected surprise which I’m sure I’ll be humming along to for the next week at least.

The whole set wasn’t belted out at 100mph – there were moments of real feeling and nuance too – the gospel sounds of the backing vocalists were put to full if expected use on the awesome ‘Tender’ – sung as much by the crowd as by the band. There were moments during the track when Damon looked properly bowled-over by the band’s reception (even though this must have happened before) and even Alex couldn’t play the cool, aloof floppy-haired bassist all the time, a huge grin breaking out on his unshaven features. When not delivering vocals with his trademark coyness, Graham flung himself around playing frenetically with occasional cheeky glances to his other band members. The solo in ‘This is a Low’ is one of Graham’s most triumphant Blur moments and I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he took it home to perfection. Dave kept everything tight and came into his own with the familiar opening thumps of ‘Sunday Sunday’ and ‘Song 2’ – instantly recognisable and guaranteed to whip up a storm.

It was pretty much a certainty that this gig would not omit the obvious chart-toppers ‘Country House’ and ‘Parklife’. Not traditional favourites of mine, the brass section gave these songs a lovely little whimsical edge, and before I knew it I was chanting along with the rest of them. After a short, sharp and frankly exhausting encore of what I have now termed ‘the Devil’s Trilogy’ – ‘Popscene’, ‘Advert’ and ‘Song 2’ we were treated to a second encore, more reflective, more considered. ‘For Tomorrow’ is for me one of the quintessential Blur songs – its portrait of the collective British melancholy framed by a haunting riff from Graham and a music-hall melody. Damon’s vocal was powerful and much more controlled, switching from the angst-shouts on ‘Popscene’ to a performance worthy of a West End musical. ‘The Universal’ is a bit more sophisticated than ‘For Tomorrow’ but comes from a similar place – matching the sublime and the mundane, the fatalistic with a sense of empowerment. There was no way that everyone in the room wasn’t going to belt out its closing refrain like it was the last song in the world.

Let’s be clear – this gig was awesome. Really awesome. To see a band that you have loved and cherished and invested in throughout your musical life play with that much vigour is heart warming indeed. A few more surprises in the set list wouldn’t have gone amiss – if there was ever a time to dust off a few hidden gems in front of an appreciative crowd this was it. Some new material would have been the icing on the cake – the final proof that this band are indeed looking forward and not to the past. That said, the atmosphere was triumphant; there was none of that unfortunate vibe that can happen when bands re-form having been away for a while where they’re just playing hits from their heyday. Blur are in their heyday. Right now.

Set List: She’s So High / Girls And Boys / Tracy Jacks / There’s No Other Way / Jubilee / Badhead / Beetlebum / Out Of Time / Trimm Trabb / Coffee And TV / Tender / Country House / Oily Water / Chemical World / Sunday Sunday / Parklife / End Of A Century / To The End / This Is A Low

Encore: Popscene / Advert / Song 2

Second Encore: For Tomorrow / The Universal

By Angela Slater


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