Review: Blur, Empress Ballroom, Blackpool
It’s a match made in heaven.
One of Britain’s most iconic venues and one of the country’s most exciting live bands – brought together for one night only.
Blur have been whipping up a storm for nearly a quarter of a century – chart-toppers, headline-makers, festival stalwarts.
Their mere presence at the Empress Ballroom was a coup for Blackpool.
The result, up there with the great nights on the resort’s famous sprung dancefloor.
“This has got to be one of the best places to play, anywhere,” frontman Damon Albarn shouts, looking out over the chandeliers – making the most of the band’s long-awaited Blackpool debut.
And that was despite a false start, Damon Albarn forced to halt mid-way through the second song of the set, urging the crowd to push back as the barriers were overwhelmed.
The band were eventually forced to leave the stage as repairs were made, returning to launch into recent single Lonesome Street – among the stand-outs from new album The Magic Whip – before Graham Coxon led the way on Coffee and TV.
From there it was something of a slow burner, the band – set to headline the Isle of Wight festival and Hyde Park this summer – indulging themselves with a run of edgier tracks, including the melancholy Out of Time.
This has got to be one of the best places to play, anywhereDamon Albarn
The fuse was a long time burning, but the explosion hit with the band launching into He Thought of Cars, following by a riotous version of I Broadcast – Damon Albarn taking control of the stage and the crowd, the ballroom shaking.
It was just a teaser – a solid hour of hits following – the sing-along Ong Ong the only interloper from Blur’s latest offering. Beetlebum and Tender warmed the crowd up, Albarn happy to be drowned out as the Empress crowd sang every word.
Then came the frenzy – Parklife (minus Phil Daniels) and Song 2 setting the Empress bouncing, the Essex band rolling back the years, taking the crowd with them.
The set closed with two more epic moments from the seminal Parklife album – To the End and This is a Low – the atmosphere electric, the moment one to savour.
The encore was equally triumphal – Stereotypes, a song Albarn said could have been written about Blackpool, drifting seamlessly into the classic pop and cutting social commentary of Girls and Boys.
For Tomorrow brought a belated nod to the tricky second album, but there was only ever going to be one way to end the show.
The Universal is Blur’s anthem – Albarn riding the barriers, almost falling into the crowd.
“It really, really, really could happen...” the Empress crowd sang as one, as Blur’s finest hour brought one of the Ballroom’s most memorable moments to a close.