Live Music + Gig Reviews

Blur @ Wembley Stadium, London

8 July 2023

One of the finest bands of their generation return with a genuinely fantastic and life-affirming show that unites both old and new fans and brings all of the feelings

Blur at Wembley Stadium (Photo: Phoebe Fox)

Blur at Wembley Stadium (Photo: Phoebe Fox)

Given the recent shows by Pulp and the return of Blur it has felt at times that 2023 has been a bit of a Britpop summer. What it actually has been is a helpful reminder to people that, among all the dreck and ghastliness that the very word has come to represent, those who were in at the start and whose careers aligned to present something very definingly British and popular were several cuts above the lumpier and deeply white TFI-cagoule Loadedness and casual sexism that followed.

Basically, the Brit in Britpop was to differentiate from the glut of post-grunge smacky whingers and novelty ravers that early ’90s music had become – the railing against out-of-town shopping centres and a soul-free existence of the Modern Life Is Rubbish era look almost quaint compared to this current shithole of shitty rivers, shittier politicians and backwardness – that for a few months back then it all felt optimistic and celebratory. That the word British has now become such a wonky poisoned chalice, too, colours the brief period of optimism that such a benign marketing label has come to represent. Thing is though, both Blur and Pulp were already far more than something that’s become an old bore’s sneer.

There is, as Graham Coxon once claimed, both a high street and back roads duality to Blur’s catalogue, where an arty racket can coexist alongside a pin-up pop. Tonight we have fans who boarded during the hits phases and throw their lager around to Parklife (tonight augmented by Phil Daniels), but also those who’ll be yelling for Inertia or Swallows In The Heatwave. Tonight’s set leans mostly half towards both Modern Life Is Rubbish (their REAL debut to be honest) and Parklife, an era where they went from bumming drinks in late night holes in a pre-gentrified London to going to members’ clubs and champagne diets.

That said, it’s not all the old stuff tonight, as they (almost) boldly bookend the show with two new tracks from The Ballad Of Darren, opening with the wonky Fripp-y squall of St Charles Square and the reflective The Narcissist just before the end. In the shows ahead of Wembley, audiences have had further glimpses of …Darren as well as a dig around the B-sides such as All Your Life, but the setlist here is perfectly pitched for the humid crowd of the faithful. There’s the cartoon Madness of Country House; the brown paranoia of Trimm Trabb; the frenetic fizz of Popscene and the elegant melancholia of the sublime Under The Westway and a superb This Is A Low.

Blur at Wembley Stadium (Photo: Blair Brown)

Blur at Wembley Stadium (Photo: Blair Brown)

Damon Albarn is visibly moved and revelling in this environment, whether he’s grinning “Hello Wembley!” or testing the echo. You feel that throughout his restless myriad adventures outside of Blur, it’s here where he can be himself bouncing off Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree like the old gang back together for one last job. That they sounded so gnarly and powerful barraging through There’s No Other Way, Song 2 and Oily Water shows that this wasn’t a phone-in. The sumptuous London Community Gospel Choir-assisted Tender was sheer joy – in fact the singalong that was reprised in the queues waiting for the tubes post-show only added to the wonder of the event.

Blur at Wembley Stadium was everything anyone who has grown up with them could want and more. A genuinely fantastic and emotional night from one of the greatest turns we’ve ever witnessed and lucky to have pop up every now and again. All of the feelings were felt in what was a perfect, life-affirming show.

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More on Blur
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Blur – The Ballad Of Darren
Blur @ Wembley Stadium, London
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