REVIEW: Blur, Blackpool Empress Ballroom

Blur performing at Blackpool Empress Ballroom
Blur performing at Blackpool Empress Ballroom

As the opening bars of The Universal rang out around the Empress Ballroom at the end of the night, Damon Albarn gazed around him in wonder at the beautiful surroundings.

Telling a crowd which was never going to disagree that “this is the best venue in the country,” he had earlier admitted that Blur had somewhat surprisingly never played in the resort before – but they more than made up for that with last night’s energetic performance.

Problems with the safety barriers occurring midway through the second song of the night were not enough to deter either the band or the audience from enjoying a set which mixed old and new perfectly.

Six songs were aired from their new album The Magic Whip while old favourites such as There’s No Other Way, Coffee & TV, Beetlebum and Tender went down a storm, along with the lesser heard Trimm Trabb and Trouble in the Message Centre.

A rare appearance for He Thought of Cars, being played during this short festival warm-up tour for the first time since 1996, was a particular treat too.

Regularly dousing the crowd with water, Albarn appeared to be having a great time, leaping about the stage with the same enthusiasm as 20 years ago and climbing down to get closer to his adoring fans several times.

He donned a pair of snazzy Blackpool sunglasses for the obligatory rendition of Parklife, before launching into Song 2 with gusto.

The tempo then changed slightly for one of my personal favourites, To the End, which segued perfectly into a haunting rendition of This Is a Low before the band exited stage right and the crowd had the chance to get its collective breathback.

Blur returned for a four song encore which included the surefire crowd pleasers of Stereotypes and Girls & Boys – a song Albarn introduced by saying it could have been written about Blackpool – before launching into For Tomorrow and the grand finale, a beautiful version of The Universal which was befitting of the stunning setting of the Empress Ballroom.