thu 18/04/2024

Blur, Wembley Stadium review - a glorious reunion trip | reviews, news & interviews

Blur, Wembley Stadium review - a glorious reunion trip

Blur, Wembley Stadium review - a glorious reunion trip

Britpop's kings revel in a night of nostalgia, friendship and unparalleled joy

The Blur of today has all the brash enthusiasm of their yesteryearPhoebe Fox

“One night I had a vision of this,” says a visibly emotional Damon Albarn as he looks out to the mass of the crowd at Wembley. Despite closing the London Olympics in 2012, selling millions of albums and headlining Glastonbury, there is the sense that even in their prime, performing two nights at the 90,000 Stadium was one step out of reach.

So, the unadulterated elation – shock even that Blur feels to be here now pumps this reunion. All these years later they’ve done it, and you bet that they’re going to enjoy it.

But it is the band’s quiet, unpretentious delight that makes this show so heart-warming. Back in the day, Blur were always a bit too put together, too fashioned, arty and cool. But now they grin from ear to ear. “It is fucking amazing,” Albarn gushes on repeat as he launches himself, raucously, into the audience to touch his fans. He pauses, momentarily, as his voice crackles at the end of “Under the Westway” to cower away from us and weep. The significance of Blur performing at what Albarn names “the temple” is too monumental to hold in.  

But amidst all the reflection, there are also nods to the future. They break away from convention and open, tentatively, with the new single “St Charles Square” – which crashes noisily into motion. There are gentle references to aging, too: gone are the boyish, pint-fuelled performances and instead Albarn sips tea in between numbers and tells stories of calming his nerves with a bath. His voice might not be quite what it used to be, but the Blur of today has all the brash enthusiasm of their yesteryear, but is less self-conscious and has none of their previous youthful anxiety.

The classics still tingle on the Wembley stage. And even with all the humour, heart and recollection, the music is what makes Blur’s set feel extraordinary. With the absence of a flashy design and none of the usual gimmicks that you might expect to come with a stadium tour, Blur rely solely on their back catalogue of bangers. Two disco balls hang, isolated above the cheering crowd, and there’s a strange pinstriped pop-up tent that Phil Daniels emerges from before "Parklife". But otherwise the band take claim of the stage with their personalities.

Albarn is still an eager, energy exploding front man. Coxon, swirls his guitar in the air like a child having a tantrum. Their relationship hasn’t always been the smoothest, but tonight they just seem happy to be stood beside each other. “I met you when you were 12 and I was 13, and we’re here now, that’s mad,” says Albarn, looking at him with all their shared history hanging in the air between them. They hold each other, jump and tease with all the familiarity that only truly good friends can. When Albarn pulls Coxon in for a kiss, it is a visual marker of their current state of harmony.   

The charm of it all, then, is watching this foursome have the time of their lives together. As Coxon takes centre stage for the fan-favourite "Coffee and TV", it feels hypnotic. On bass guitar, Alex James smirks before blasting into "Girls & Boys". Now recovered from his knee injury, Dave Rowntree has the same steadiness on drums that he always had. When one song finishes, we wait in greedy anticipation for what’s coming next. Blur’s old tunes sound undated – bettered perhaps, by their years in hibernation. And this show is a mixtape of their evolution. We jump from their 1991 break-through anthem "There’s No Other Way" right through to the softer melancholy pining of "This is Low". The big hitters – "Country House" and "Song 2" still smash and crash, as triumphant and rowdy as ever.

We’re in something of a Brit-pop renaissance. Pulp’s sell-out tour coincides with these Blur shows – the first of which sold-out in under two minutes. But, under the summer sun’s glare, it is clear that these are the sort of spiritual chants that need to be performed live. As the London Community Gospel Choir join in to perform "Tender", strangers of all ages reach out to each other in collective bliss. Their music feels as alive now as it ever did – and what a privilege it is to bask in its feeling. "There’s no other way", no better way, than to hear it played on the greatest ever stage.

The music is what makes Blur's set feel extraordinary

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters