Blur, Wu-Lu @ The Halls, Wolverhampton, UK, May 26, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Blur, Wu-Lu

Blur, Wu-Lu @ The Halls, Wolverhampton, UK, May 26, 2023,

May 29, 2023 Photography by Tom Pallant Web Exclusive
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Wolverhampton Civic Hall has been a regular calling point for Blur over the years since the early nineties so it shouldn’t come as any surprise they’ve chosen to play here again as one of four low-key warm-up shows similar to the ones they played at the same venue in 2009 and 2012 respectively. Indeed, tonight marks something of a milestone for the venue itself; now rechristened The Halls - as this will be the first time its opened its doors since 2015. For Blur, playing in such an intimate venue (by their standards) prior to their Wembley Stadium shows in July might be a drop in the ocean, but as with the two previous shows in Colchester and Eastbourne on this short run of club dates, the four-piece simply lap it up and enjoy every second.

Before the headliners arrival on stage, those who’ve made it into the venue early are treated to a blistering set from Miles Romans-Hopcraft, aka Wu-Lu and his band. With an all-encompassing musical palette that incorporates funk, punk, dub reggae, hip hop and metal and a repertoire ensuring no two verses sound the same never mind two songs, Wu-Lu are a captivating proposition in the flesh. Signed to Warp Records - themselves renowned for releasing boundary pushing music - Wu-Lu is a revelation of sorts, switching effortlessly between genres while delivering impeccably crafted pieces such as the dreamy “Scrambled Tricks” (think A.R. Kane meets Young Fathers) or raging “South”, which increases the energy levels somewhat.

By the time Blur emerge to the theme tune from Roald Dahl’s “Tales Of The Unexpected”, the Halls is jam-packed to capacity. As each of the band’s four members - Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree - makes their way onto the stage, they’re greeted with cheers usually reserved for returning sporting heroes. Launching headfirst into a new song, “St Charles Square” - one of two they’ll play off forthcoming ninth long player The Ballad Of Darren - the confidence and urgency that’s been a hallmark of Blur’ live performances pretty much from the outset is there for all to see. With its roots in garage punk and acerbic lyrical content, “St Charles Square” is Blur at their incessant best. As opening salvos go it doesn’t get much better than this, and for the next two hours we’re treated to a masterclass of some of the finest compositions written over the past three decades.

Next up are the two oldest songs Blur will play this evening; 1991 breakthrough single “There’s No Other Way” and non-album single “Popscene”, released the following year and now seen as the bridge between debut album Leisure and the understated masterpiece that is Modern Life Is Rubbish. Having celebrated its thirtieth anniversary earlier this month, songs from Modern Life Is Rubbish feature quite heavily in tonight’s set so its a pleasant surprise to hear the likes of “Coping” and “Villa Rosie” alongside album single “Chemical World” and its b-side “Young & Lovely”. Later on, an even more emphatic “Oily Water” complete with Albarn on megaphone and a feedback heavy outro will segue into the bratty “Advert”, its two an a bit pogotastic minutes proving one of this evening’s many highlights.

What Blur do possess in their armoury is an absolute plethora of bangers, whether that be album tracks or big singles. So old favourites like “Trimm Trabb” off 1999’s 13 are received with the same level of adoration as number one hit “Beetlebum” or the delectable “Out Of Time”, the only song aired off 2003’s Think Tank this evening. Elsewhere, Parklife is understandably heavily represented both in the early part of the set by “Jubilee” which receives its first live airing since 2013 then the holy trinity of “End Of The Century”, “Parklife” and “To The End”, all played back to back later on in the evening. Not to mention a poignant rendition of “This Is A Low” which closes the first set after a raucous “Song 2” threatens to bring down the newly renovated Halls, literally.

While everyone has their own opinion on encores being pre-planned or whatever, the five songs Blur choose to return to the stage are nothing short of masterful. Or as a television advert once proclaimed, if Carlsberg did encores… Opening with “Girls & Boys” which still sounds as vibrant and refreshing as it did back in the summer of 1993 before a breathtaking rendition of current single “The Narcissist” which is already well on the way to becoming one of their most popular compositions, its chorus sang back word for word by all and sundry. Followed by a rousing “Tender”, its refrain of “Oh my baby, oh my, oh why” ringing loud and clear long after the song has dissipated into thin air, then an equally buoyant “For Tomorrow” before a colossal run through “The Universal” brings proceedings to a close.

As live performances go, it doesn’t get any better than this. Blur are back and on tonight’s showing, at their untouchable best. Wembley, you are in for a treat.


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