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
'I do think a woman's place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.'

Is this the end of the Dowager Countess?tv
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

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

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

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.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn