Imagine enjoying Country House, because it happened, as the band play their first big show since 2015
I was sure I’d become an ex-Blur fan. Too many Gorillaz albums released; too many times seeing Damon Alban beat his chest at Gorillaz festival sets, standing on the barrier like a dad who’s just got into grime. What even is Blur anymore? Not Gorillaz, perhaps, but also kind of Gorillaz. One of them is mates with David Cameron, and the whole band sails uncomfortably close to becoming my generation’s Rolling Stones. But what’s wrong with that, I say, only now, after their first big show back since 2015, closing the first day of Primavera 2023.
When I was an ex-Blur fan an hour ago, I decided that watching them from the back of the crowd, where I might have been tempted to, was a bad idea. I would stand front and centre and cop it, for better or worse.
For what follows, it’s a perfect move for the band to start with a new, unnamed track, even if it takes a while for the crowd to get over it. It’s better than new single ‘The Narcissist’ (the only other new song played tonight, which thankfully sounds less like Stereophonics in real life), although it does have Damon Albarn in Gorillaz frontman mode that’s so grating, hunched over like Monty Pyton’s Mr Gumby, jolting his arms like he’s being electrocuted and screaming away from the mic like he’s falling down a well. All that stuff. But they couldn’t place this or any other unheard song anywhere else in this set; from the following ‘There’s No Other Way’ onwards. Perhaps after an early, excellent outing for ‘Beetlebum’ – that starts to stir the shellshocked crowd after 4 songs – but they choose to sneak out a double for themselves there: the Radiohead-ish, brilliant ‘Trimm Trabb’ from 13 and the lesser spotted ‘Villa Rosie’ off Modern Life Is Rubbish.
Personally, I’m already having the time of my life, and so are the band, who in part sound like they’ve rehearsed every day since 2015 (especially Dave Roundtree, who surely never used to be this much of a brute to his drum kit), and at other times feel like they’re busking the whole show, albeit with a reassuring confidence (Graham Coxon’s solos are happily wobbly, which he seems to be enjoying most of all; it inadvertently stops the whole thing feeling like a karaoke cash-grab, even if it is). Damon’s not too mangled and singing well, and Alex James is over by the cheese counter still wiggling and playing Brit pop’s more imaginative and underrated bass lines.
It’s not that the rest of the crowd aren’t convinced yet, but they’re very still and polite, which is exactly what I thought I wanted, but it turns out it isn’t. Where are all the twats, I’m thinking. I want to be a hopping twat down the front at Blur; while I remember how much I love these songs; while the band aren’t waxed and polished yet; and yes, while I’m still drunk.
‘Coffee and TV’ just about does it, and although the band trollishly follow it with ‘Luminous’ (a 1991 B-side to ‘Bang’, which I don’t think even Alex James has heard before), it’s all silly hits and weepy ballads from there: ‘End of The Century’ (something seems to be in my eye) and ‘Parklife’ (someone seems to be beating me up), ‘To The End’ and ‘Girls and Boys’, ‘Tender’ and the inevitable ‘Universal’ to end. Even ‘Country House’ – the worst song of the 90s and every other decade of people having ears – is too much fun to not go with (what’s happening to me?) and ‘Song 2’, perhaps for the first time ever, sounds as it should, with Albarn finally remembering how he screamed “woo-hoo” when they recorded the track in 1997.
Blur themselves can’t possibly get much better than this, while the crowds will do what they do throughout their year, and no doubt reach peak Fat Les in London at Wembley. No thank you! Although, maybe.
There’s No Other Way
Coffee & TV
End of the Century
To the End
Girls & Boys
This Is A Low