First Night: Blur, Rough Trade East
On a high: Blur rise from the ashes (and the odd pot plant) at small show for fans
Wednesday 17 June 2009
Drummer Dave Rowntree came in too early on "Girls And Boys", prompting Damon Albarn to joke that he was a "bit eager" before getting the words mixed up himself. Alex James fell off the stage and into a pot plant and Albarn quipped that he was "nearly the coolest man in the world".
In a packed record store in east London, Blur seemed to be enjoying themselves as they chatted throughout a free secret gig, any differences consigned to history.
They are preparing to play to more than 100,000 people, headlining the Glastonbury Festival. But on Monday night, just 170 fans were lucky enough to see the newly reformed band play inside Rough Trade East.
The free gig – announced that morning on guitarist Graham Coxon's Twitter feed – was the band's first public performance for nine years. They had played a gig for friends and family at the weekend at the East Anglian Railway Museum, near Colchester, but this was the first time they had reunited for their fans since Coxon left during the making of the band's 2003 No 1 album Think Tank, following a fallout with his childhood friend, singer Damon Albarn.
The four-piece band climbed on to the tiny stage, inches away from the crowd, to open with their first ever single, "She's So High", to rapturous cheers. It seemed a fitting beginning.
And for the next hour they played a 13-song set that included all the hits plus a handful of rarely heard, firm fan favourites including "Advert", "For Tomorrow" and "Out of Time", and ended with an emotional "This is A Low".
The teething troubles with forgotten words and pot plants continued with Albarn throwing water on to the crowd and bouncing around the stage for "Popscene" before getting the microphone wire tangled up so badly that a roadie had to come and sort it out. But it was the music that mattered, and it reminded everyone there just what great songs this band has to its name. Rowntree teased the crowd with a slow start on "Song 2" that gradually increased before that famous riff from Coxon raised the roof.
"Parklife" was equally well received after Albarn stole some horn-rimmed glasses from a punter before shouting the lyrics directly into the faces of the delighted front row.
There was no encore however, despite the fans begging for more. When asked how he thought it went, James said: "You tell me. There were a lot of people crying."
The gig marked the release date of their new collection of hits, Midlife: A Beginner's Guide To Blur. It was a rare opportunity to see them at such an intimate venue. They will play to thousands at Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage on the Sunday night – their first appearance at the festival since 1998.
In March, Glastonbury organiser Michael Eavis officially confirmed the band to play the festival. Each band member now has his own agenda, be it politics, studying law or making cheese, but the big question is whether Blur will go back into the studio.
Coxon didn't rule it out: "It's up to us," said the guitarist. "But I wouldn't mind doing it." He said the decision to get back together was a result of them getting older and letting go.
"The weirdness disappeared. Before we just needed some time out but didn't know how to tell each other."
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 3 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 4 The most powerful passports in the world
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove