|Of all my low-quality camera phone shots, this one was the least, ahem, blurry|
Like me, it seemed that most people thought that one of Britain's all-time most celebrated bands would start their set at the relatively small venue (for a band of their stature), the Wolverhampton Civic Hall as they did their BBC Radio 2 Live At Maida Vale session broadcast last week (click here for video highlights): intimate, low-key, saving their energy for their huge Olympic Closing Ceremony appearance at Hyde Park happening later this week. We were so wrong: as the opening notes of "Girls And Boys" squelched out it was clear where all of those plastic cups of horrible, expensive beer were about to go. The initial six-song run (highlights being "Tracy Jacks", "Beetlebum" and "Coffee And TV") played out like a punk show: Damon Albarn managing to show the crowd his best Iggy-isms without coming across as too ridiculous or flashy. Despite his non-commital attitude to his most renowned project over the years, he seemed to be having the most fun out of anyone.
Over the course of two hours Blur knocked out an impeccably-chosen setlist, balancing their best-known hits with lesser-known album cuts and b-sides ("Caramel" and "End Of A Century" being two of my favourites), and both sides of their new single: "Under The Westway" / "The Puritan". Hearing "No Distance Left To Run" immediately after the two-minute near-heart-attack of "Song 2" was probably a relief shared by more people than just myself. Even a few sound issues didn't dampen the experience: four backing singers and three horn players stood to the side of the stage without being heard even in their most necessary moments, but the four band members could be heard beautifully (my ears are stil ringing, as expected). It was totally their show, made even more special by the rare occurrence of the event. Thankfully both band and audience were detemined to get the most out of the precious time shared.