For a band who finished their heyday in the so-called “Britpop” big four in third place, they put on the second-best show of 2023 with the world’s best guitarist. One, two, three, four. Nothing is wasted as Blur thunder through their majorly impressive Wembley setlist, a stage which gives the four-piece a chance to shine with tracks old and new. Frontman Damon Albarn brings out Phil Daniels, a polar bear and new single St Charles Square to kick it all off. Blur appears to make peace with some of their deeper cuts, their fan favourites and seeing the likes of Graham Coxon and Alex James lean into these moments which depend on their unique experiences, their handiwork with guitar and bass alike, is a real treat. Dave Rowntree rallies through and has some sensational pockets of his own.
It all feels a tad wild seeing Blur grace the Wembley stage so long after the first time. Still, not everyone was around to hear a cover of My Sharona followed by a Daniels-featuring Parklife. The latter features nicely paired with Country House as it was on the previous reunion tour. Hits are in no short supply, with Beetlebum, There’s No Other Way and Tender all making their inevitable and rousing appearances. There is no better feeling than launching into the encore chorus of Girls & Boys, berating your brother for not knowing the words and firing a bit of sonic beauty into his ears.
Dig a little deeper though, as the likes of Villa Rosie, Under the Westway and an excellent performance of Stereotypes are the real dark horses. Popscene and Lot 105 are nicely placed and give the band, particularly Albarn, time to recall how much he loves London. His love for Freddie Mercury also appears, applause for the Queen frontman preceding End of a Century. Albarn praises Mercury as one of the all-time greats, the equivalent expectation being chowing down on a Rustlers burger and expecting fine dining. Either way, tributes or not, the belief in fusing the Wembley spirit with something tangible and performative is all there. Coxon is never afraid to break a guitar or two by launching them into the air, wailing away on them as though fire ants are biting the insides of his fingers.
Not exactly what you expect from a Blur live show in this day and age, and it is great to see they still subvert expectations. Holding back new track The Narcissist for the encore, a place where bands hold their finest and most popular work, is a sign of confidence in new material. Rightly so. The Ballad of Darren follows this sold-out Wembley gig, and by the sounds of it, Blur is right where they should be, on one of the grandest stages of all, playing their hits and filtering in deep cuts, recently released work and a telling realisation of how far they have come. Seymour feels a long while ago, but the fine production, the bits and pieces of audio and visual beauty which spring through for those in the rafters, is just as including as when Albarn throws himself to the audience.