Blur, Goldsmiths College, London
The Noisettes, Koko, London

If Blur's comeback gig is anything to go by, Glastonbury is in for a storming finale tonight

The silly giddy circus music plays, like it always did, and here we go again.

Damon Albarn tilts his head back and examines the ceiling. For ages. Perhaps he’s collecting his thoughts as prodigal homecomer Graham Coxon slowly strums out the intro to “She’s So High”, Blur’s debut single.

Perhaps he’s contemplating the truth that, much as he may relish his ability to branch out into comic books, Chinese opera and African music, and much as Coxon might wish to be remembered for seven solo albums, this thing is what people will always want from them both, and this thing is what binds them together.

Before we continue, let’s get one thing straight: anyone who bought into the simple either/or dichotomy of Blur versus Oasis is an imbecile.

The correct answer was always “none of the above”. However, on the basis that a band with a brain is preferable to one without, Blur were the lesser of two evils.

Tonight, back in their alma mater, the place where it all began 20 years ago (“I’m having one of those weird spatial moments,” Albarn, left, says, surveying the student union hall, “I remember this place being huge ...”), they show that they’re so much more than that. I’ve seen countless Blur gigs over the years, and I’d be lying if I didn’t report this is the best I’ve ever witnessed.

It must be said that the four members of Blur are, like Duran Duran, looking disgustingly good for their advancing years, exuding an enviably healthy glow. Albarn can still get away with a Fred Perry, and the hunched, Caine-like Coxon and drummer Dave Rowntree have barely changed during the hiatus. Alex James, in particular, must have been through quite some fitness regime to get into those arse-hugging jeans, having recently started to resemble an actual farmer.

They muster impressive resources of energy for this two-hour marathon, covering nearly all the hits as well as selected album tracks and fan faves ("Tracy Jacks", "Trimm Trabb", "Oily Water"), a set so comprehensive it almost backfires and I start bitching about what they don't play (the Numanesque "Trouble in the Message Centre" topping the list), instead of enjoying the ones they do.

It virtually amounts to showing off: we wrote this one, and this one, and this one. "Girls and Boys", for instance, is thrown in super-early (second song), its brilliance – the callous economy of that opening couplet, "Street's like a jungle/So call the police" – undiminished by familiarity. Albarn sings with a renewed aggression and precision, as though he's just remembered, after all these years, that the words mean something. The break from the tour treadmill doubtless helped.

The crowd ranges from freshers, who only know of Blur via I Love the 90s clip shows and nostalgic NME Classics mags, to the band's contemporaries: looking around, there are almost enough familiar faces to make a quorum of the music biz kickabouts in which Damon and I took part in Hyde Park on Sunday afternoons during the Britpop days.

"You should probably pace yourselves," Damon advises, drenching the front rows in Evian, "because there's a long way to go." Wise words on a night so hot that sweat condenses on the ceiling and, if you stand in the wrong place, drips into your pint. During the fast section of "Sunday Sunday", when Damon runs on the spot and everyone pogos, you hope there are paramedics on standby (for him or for us). Pleasingly, unlike REM and Radiohead, Blur don't try to write their cheesiest hits out of history, meaning we do get "Parklife", and "Country House", the apex of their Chas & Dave, knees-up-muvver-braahn nonsense.

It's a common observation, but Blur are best when they slow it down, instead of chasing the zeitgeist at a million miles an hour. "Badhead" is an early reminder, and as the show approaches its finale, the beautiful ballads start appearing: "End of the Century", "The Universal", "Out of Time", my personal favourite "To the End (Jusqu'à la Fin)", and "This Is a Low", a song inspired by the spookiness of late-night shipping reports (not something you can imagine either Gallagher brother coming up with). They encore with "For Tomorrow", the song where it all changed, where Blur revealed themselves as a band with poetry in their souls and life in their minds.

It's the climax of a show so good, in fact, that I can't imagine how the open-air extravaganzas for which it is a warm-up can match it. But it really, really, really could happen ....

If you build it, they will come. That's the theory behind the ascent of The Noisettes, a band whose recent fame hasn't settled the matter of how to pronounce their punning name. (I favour the may-contain-nuts French option.) The London trio of Shingai Shoniwa, Dan Smith and Jamie Morrison began at the starting-square of an indie band, but threw a double six to skip the drudgery of the toilet circuit, landing straight on the A-list (by way of a Mazda advert), meaning big enough budgets for a string section.

It's mainly down to maddeningly catchy single "Don't Upset the Rhythm (Go Baby Go Baby Go)", but whether they'll maintain it depends greatly on the undoubted charisma of singer and (occasional bassist) Shoniwa, whose hairstyle, resembling a piratical tricorn hat, suggests panto season's come early; whose versatile voice ranges from a Winehouse-like jazz chanteuse croon to full-on house diva; and whose theatrical antics – scaling a rope ladder, singing from the balcony, and twisting her spine into limbo shapes – draw upon her background doing burlesque routines for Lost Vagueness.

The Noisettes' praline-like pop-soul goodness might pall if you eat too many, but right now they're worth a whirl.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions