Blur: 'There's no pressure on us now'

Words by Graham Coxon, Portraits by Pennie Smith

Being back on stage with Blur is amazing. It's very powerful.

I missed the individual quite a lot in the live situation. I relish looking around and seeing what we're all doing on the stage. In the old days I got submerged in myself and found it more and more difficult to enjoy. I enjoy watching Alex – he's such an underrated bass player and Dave is right in the midst of it. Damon is the same, as good as ever.

We're playing better than we ever did. We're experiencing such a positive revisit. The audiences are going crackers and are so happy. There's such a range of ages: there are people who weren't around 10 or 15 years ago, and there are fans who have waited a long time for this.

It's nice the songs seem to have got stronger in time. They were almost mini prophesies when we wrote them, and they perform as well as they did. They seem to be more relevant now. They were about the strange weird future where things weren't looking great and now we're in the weird future. I quite like the emotional songs like "This Is a Low" and "She's So High" and there are some songs I'd like to get into the set for the bigger shows. All Blur fans and the people in the group consider "This Is a Low" to have touched everyone the most. Nobody's doing shows like this. It's quite a long set with wide-ranging material.

Playing together again wasn't that difficult once we'd got back into the rhythm. It now seems to be working better. At one time I was worried I couldn't play as well. It was a tall order for us to learn to play every song, so then we chose songs we all liked and we got down to 80, then 40.

There's no pressure now. I don't feel laden down with the pressure to maintain commercial success or anything like that. The shows are for us to demonstrate we're playing to the best of our abilities, making us happy and to make as many people as possible happy. We've been choosing the set quite carefully. We were pretty overworked at the time. It was difficult being worked very hard, and ambitious. You have to find it in yourselves to get through the set – whether that means having a drink to get through it.

A Blur concert for me has always been extremely draining emotionally and physically. In the end I learned it's the audience that get you through it. You play to the audience – to the people in the front who are particularly enthusiastic. I was struggling through in an isolated manner. We all did. We became a massive machine and a business and the group members were the least important in the big thing that we became. It was difficult to feel important. But we're encouraging each other more now than we used to. It's a more caring attitude among us.

Now with the pause we had in the group we realise we are important as individuals and we are friends again. It just was there when we met. We got to know each other again. It's important we're all having a good time. You've got to be nice to each other, look after each other and make sure everyone's happy – otherwise there's no point. It helps having regular meals and a decent rider. I must admit the Moroccan and Middle Eastern food we're having is very nice. It used to be crisps and chocolate, which gets you through the short-term.

My memory of our last Glastonbury is terrible. I've seen pictures, but I can't even remember owning the T-shirt I was wearing. Glastonbury is going to be beautiful. I hope so – I've been checking the weather forecast. It might rain for Neil Young, but hopefully we're going to be OK. We've been starting our sets with "She's So High" and I really like that. It's gentle and quite dreamy, and it's a good way of settling into the set. It's the first song we wrote and rehearsed together and our first single, so it makes sense. It's still one of my favourites to play.

Our first time at Glastonbury I remember watching P J Harvey and that was really great. We've had so many special moments at festivals. There were a couple that were very significant. It's a great feeling when things are about to take off.

We played a show at Goldsmiths College. It was neat to play now Alex and I are both fellows, to turn up at 40 when things are going so well. As for going back into the studio, we don't want any extraneous pressures. We'll make sure everyone else has fun and then we'll think about it afterwards.



Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.


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