In the build up to their summer headline shows, that include a slot at Isle of White Festival, BST and Benicassim, Blur fans were treated to a handful of intimate show, including a slot at the Empress Ballroom in sunny Blackpool to give a run out to their new Eastern inspired album and brainchild of guitarist Graham Coxon: The Magic Whip.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the band’s first time in the seaside town, and despite frontman Damon Albarn telling this crowd the Empress Ballroom was the ‘best venue he’s ever visited’, the night’s proceedings we’re delayed, just two songs in during an flamboyant rendition of ‘There’s No Other Way’, as the excitement of the crowd got the better of them, breaking the barrier at the front, forcing the band to halt the gig and leave the stage, but not before Alex James sparked up a fag.
A sheepish Damon Albarn looked embarrassed as he returned to the stage, as the crowd finished up their 1991 Leisure single with acapella chants of that famous chorus.
But it wasn’t long though before the Brit-Pop kings kicked things back off with a duo of The Magic Whip songs: album opener ‘Lonesome Street’ and ‘Ghost Ship’ easing Albarn back into doing what he does best. For a band who haven’t put on a string of live shows in over a year, there wasn’t even a sign of any cobwebs to blow away. Other than the minor technical hindrance this was fine display from these seasoned pros.
So much so that this band it seemed didn’t even need to worry about the classic warm-up gig trade-off, of airing out their recently conceived masterpieces and intertwining them with good old fan favourites. There were outings for ‘Thought I Was A Space Man’, ‘My Terracotta Heart’, ‘I Broadcast’ and ‘Ong Ong’ seamlessly immersed in everything you’d expect from a classic headline slot from the band.
With an endless back-catalogue of Brit-pop gems to serve up, Albarn gave the crowd at this iconic venue all they could ever ask for, including a triumphant encore featuring ‘Stereotypes’, ‘Girls and Boys’ and ‘The Universal’.
There was nothing routine about this ‘warm up’ show, Albarn, Coxon and co proving furthermore after all these years it’s going to take something serious to knock them of their mantle.