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.

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project