Blur, Wu-Lu @ The Halls, Wolverhampton, UK, Might 26, 2023,
Might 29, 2023
Pictures by Tom Pallant
Wolverhampton Civic Corridor has been an everyday calling level for Blur through the years for the reason that early nineties so it shouldn’t come as any shock they’ve chosen to play right here once more as one among 4 low-key warm-up exhibits just like those they performed on the identical venue in 2009 and 2012 respectively. Certainly, tonight marks one thing of a milestone for the venue itself; now rechristened The Halls – as this would be the first time its opened its doorways since 2015. For Blur, enjoying in such an intimate venue (by their requirements) previous to their Wembley Stadium exhibits in July could be a drop within the ocean, however as with the 2 earlier exhibits in Colchester and Brighton on this quick run of membership dates, the four-piece merely lap it up and revel in each second.
Earlier than the headliners arrival on stage, those that’ve made it into the venue early are handled to a blistering set from Miles Romans-Hopcraft, aka Wu-Lu and his band. With an all-encompassing musical palette that comes with funk, punk, dub reggae, hip hop and steel and a repertoire making certain no two verses sound the identical by no means thoughts two songs, Wu-Lu are a charming proposition within the flesh. Signed to Warp Data – themselves famend for releasing boundary pushing music – Wu-Lu is a revelation of types, switching effortlessly between genres whereas delivering impeccably crafted items such because the dreamy “Scrambled Methods” (assume A.R. Kane meets Younger Fathers) or raging “South”, which will increase the power ranges considerably.
By the point Blur emerge to the theme tune from Roald Dahl’s “Tales Of The Surprising”, the Halls is jam-packed to capability. As every of the band’s 4 members – Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree – makes their means onto the stage, they’re greeted with cheers normally reserved for returning sporting heroes. Launching headfirst into a brand new track, “St Charles Sq.” – one among two they’ll play off forthcoming ninth lengthy participant The Ballad Of Darren – the boldness and urgency that’s been a trademark of Blur’ stay performances just about from the outset is there for all to see. With its roots in storage punk and acerbic lyrical content material, “St Charles Sq.” is Blur at their incessant greatest. As opening salvos go it doesn’t get a lot better than this, and for the following two hours we’re handled to a masterclass of a few of the most interesting compositions written over the previous three a long time.
Subsequent up are the 2 oldest songs Blur will play this night; 1991 breakthrough single “There’s No Different Means” and non-album single “Popscene”, launched the next yr and now seen because the bridge between debut album Leisure and the understated masterpiece that’s Trendy Life Is Garbage. Having celebrated its thirtieth anniversary earlier this month, songs from Trendy Life Is Garbage characteristic fairly closely in tonight’s set so its a nice shock to listen to the likes of “Coping” and “Villa Rosie” alongside album single “Chemical World” and its b-side “Younger & Pretty”. In a while, an much more emphatic “Oily Water” full with Albarn on megaphone and a suggestions heavy outro will segue into the bratty “Advert”, its two an a bit pogotastic minutes proving one among this night’s many highlights.
What Blur do possess of their armoury is an absolute plethora of bangers, whether or not that be album tracks or massive singles. So outdated favourites like “Trimm Trabb” off 1999’s 13 are obtained with the identical degree of adoration as primary hit “Beetlebum” or the delectable “Out Of Time”, the one track aired off 2003’s Assume Tank this night. Elsewhere, Parklife is understandably closely represented each within the early a part of the set by “Jubilee” which receives its first stay airing since 2013 then the holy trinity of “Finish Of The Century”, “Parklife” and “To The Finish”, all performed again to again in a while within the night. To not point out a poignant rendition of “This Is A Low” which closes the primary set after a raucous “Tune 2” threatens to carry down the newly renovated Halls, actually.
Whereas everybody has their very own opinion on encores being pre-planned or no matter, the 5 songs Blur select to return to the stage are nothing wanting masterful. Or as a tv advert as soon as proclaimed, if Carlsberg did encores… Opening with “Women & Boys” which nonetheless sounds as vibrant and refreshing because it did again in the summertime of 1993 earlier than a panoramic rendition of present single “The Narcissist” which is already effectively on the best way to turning into one among their hottest compositions, its refrain sang again phrase for phrase by one and all. Adopted by a rousing “Tender”, its chorus of “Oh my child, oh my, oh why” ringing loud and clear lengthy after the track has dissipated into skinny air, then an equally buoyant “For Tomorrow” earlier than a colossal run via “The Common” brings proceedings to an in depth.
As stay performances go, it doesn’t get any higher than this. Blur are again and on tonight’s exhibiting, at their untouchable greatest. Wembley, you might be in for a deal with.