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Blur perform at Rough Trade East

Blur Rough it

Reformed Brit-pop heroes rock surprise intimate show
16 June 2009 - Say what you like about Blur, they’ve never done it the easy way.

To bag a ticket for the second proper Blur show in a decade, we had to queue at Brixton Academy from 11am, and weren’t told the location of the actual venue (record-shop-cum-indie-mecca Rough Trade East) until 5pm.

Only 170 fans bear witness to the other fab four's return to the city that inspired their best work.

Promoting their new best-of, Midlife: A Beginners Guide To Blur, the mood as Colchester’s finest take the stage is as sweaty and close as a ripe Alex James cheese.

Blur have always been a band that have lost something in the translation to bigger venues: the smaller the gig, the more sense they make.

Tonight we glimpsed traces of their original art-punk incarnation as Seymour: Damon resplendent (naturally) in an orange Fred Perry top throwing himself about the stage like it’s 1990 again and the future depends on the power of his pogo.

True to his younger self, Graham bounces so hard and so high during Popscene he slips and crumples in a heap, the only difference is the 2009-model sober Graham Coxon doesn’t drop a note as he plays from the floor.

Alex is a moist and chunky update of his younger self, but he still has that dazzling smile as he balances on the monitors.

Dave Rowntree’s bald patch gleams in the stage lights, but his beats never falter.

Two gigs in and this is Blur as they’ve always meant to be: anarchic, messy and fabulous in a way their contemporaries never matched, but with the tightly coiled practice of seasoned musos.

Brat-pop tempered with a maturity Seymour would never understand.

Naturally it’s the speedier numbers – particularly the breathless run of Popscene, Song 2 and Parklife - that fare best in the tiny room.

The more tender moments - End Of A Century, Out Of Time and, well, Tender - feel a little sloppy, but then these are songs meant for a bigger scale.

When the record store walls widen to Hyde Park or Glastonbury’s fields of Avalon, the Blur ballad book will make sense.

For now it’s the noisy pop and shouting that works best: Girls and Boys disco firecracker, the punk rock sneeze of Advert, the feedback drenched catharsis of Beetlebum and This Is A Low, reducing an audience of diehards to a soaking, gibbering mess. 

13 songs later and the boys clear the stage to cheers of hero worship.

Someone shouts for Wonderwall, but then someone always does.

Blur in 2009 then: Modern life is still rubbish, but music is still their radar, and Blur are weathering their Midlife rather well. Roll on Hyde Park.

Marc Burrows

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Comments so far

Ben. London

jonathan, brighton
best band ever

James, Wolverhampton
Nice review, lets hope they live up to the hype at Hyde Park and Glasto!

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