This evening was going to be an interesting event as not only were Blur sharing their third warm up show prior to their two Wembley Stadium shows in July but Wolverhampton Halls was reopening after eight years and a nigh on forty-million-pound revamp. The last time I was at this complex was for the wonderful Black Star Riders in December 2015 and the last time I’d seen Blur was on a package tour with My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr and Jesus and Mary Chain back in April 1992.
My first reflections on entering was as to how the hell did they manage to spend all that money but after a brief sortie through the crowd, I could see the third balcony which has increased the capacity to just shy of three thousand five hundred.
We didn`t have long to wait as the light dimmed and the theme from late eighties tv show `Tales of The Unexpected` was pumped through the pa as the Britpop quartet arrive on stage and kick us off with the unreleased `St. Charles Square` from their forthcoming ninth album `The Ballad of Darren` which to me had a hint of Bowie about it before sharing the wonderfully dreamy `There’s No Other Way`. We dip back in time for the questioning `Popscene` and grinding chugging `Coping`. The band have played a fairly set structure on these warm up shows with a couple of curve balls thrown in and the first of these tonight comes with the observational `Jubilee` from the Parklife album. Damon sits at a piano for `Young & Lovely` but I have to say that `Trimm Trabb` really stood out for me with it`s acoustic guitars and delightfully percussive beat.
We have a fairly reflective section with numbers such as `Villa Rosie`, `Coffee & TV` and `Out of Time` before there`s a sort of greatest hits segment that really ignites the faithful with `End of a Century`, `Parklife` and `To the End` which to me should have been a Bond theme song.
`Oily Water` and part of `Advert` are sang / spoken through a megaphone before the fellas close out with the grunge parody `Song 2` before leaving us with the really intense `This Is a Low`.
The band return and introduce us to their roadie Darren who inspired the title of their latest album `The Ballad of Darren` before crashing into the satirical `Girls & Boys`, their latest single `The Narcissist` which sounds both reflective and pertinent and the country tinged `Tender`. The introspective `For Tomorrow` is almost a calm before the storm or cacophony of noise which is `Intermission` after which the band send us home with the thoughtful `The Universal`
This two-hour show seemed pretty overwhelming at the time but on reflection it did seem a pretty inclusive event for all those there and for me the songs shared took on a much deeper meaning, maybe through age or just my greater understanding.
The band’s Wembley Stadium shows should be a blast on the strength of tonight`s performance and we always have the new album to look forward to. To me, this didn`t seem like a comeback for Blur but more of a nod to say hey we`re still around and still very relevant.