Blur at Eastbourne Winter Garden, 21st May 2023
Mention Eastbourne to most people and they’ll instantly picture an image of a sleepy Victorian seaside town. But with the town hosting this year’s Turner Arts Prize, a yearly international tennis tournament and featuring high in many newspapers ‘most underrated town’ lists, it still was a massive shock when it was announced that Blur were playing a warm up show in Eastbourne’s newly refurbished Winter Garden.
Blur – a band who first caught people’s attention in the early nineties with hit single There’s No Other Way and went on to have a career spanning over 30 years and have become a household name worldwide were playing a warm up show here. No wonder tickets sold out within 2 minutes of going on sale.
That anticipation built and on the day they arrived, a long stretch of people outside the venue all looking overjoyed for what was soon going to be witnessed.
Just after 9pm touring musician Mike Smith and the four members of Blur: guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James, drummer Dave Rowntree and Damon Albarn amble onto stage to The Ron Grainer Orchestra’s Tales Of The Unexpected (Theme). What followed was a 2 hour set that featured their best known hit singles, fan favourites and new material from their forthcoming album The Ballad of Darren.
And it is from this album that we hear the first song of the evening, St Charles Square, which shows the band’s creative juices are still very much flowing.
From then on in it felt like a Greatest Hits set. Next up was the indie dance floor classic There’s No Other Way, whose familiar guitar riff and chorus was the first to induce mass hysteria from the audience. For some it would have brought back memories of Blur’s first appearance in this grand hall in 1995 as part of their seaside tour.
Both Popscene and Coping would have reinforced any notion of nostalgia – both had the audience pogoing and Damon encouraging the audience to let go and enjoy the moment. The latter even saw his gold tooth fall out and him comedically quipping that he should have used Fixodent pre-gig. He battled on and Chemical World saw the tempo drop and him make his first of many forays down to the crowd barrier.
It was a set list that wouldn’t and couldn’t disappoint, but given they haven’t toured since 2015 there was always going to be a little rough around the edges. Tonight was only the second date of a four gig tour where the main aim is to get them ready for a gruelling worldwide tour schedule later this year. Our first glimpse of this was in Trimm Trabb where the timing was off and forced them to have to restart – but it also served as a further reminder of how lucky we were to see them in such an intimate setting.
The late nineties classic Coffee & TV saw Graham Coxon become the main focus for the first time and for many would have been one of a number of highlights, whilst the very unexpected and much welcome appearance of Phil Daniels for Park Life was another that will be cemented tonight long in the memory of all in attendance.
The riotously natured Song 2 served as the prelude to the slow paced set closer This Is A Low. But with all gigs it’s only right to leave with people wanting more, and it wasn’t long before our collective wishes were granted. With the band coming back on stage to play 5 more songs – starting with the anthemic Boys & Girls where Damon encourages us all to chant along to the chorus.
The Narcissist showed us another glimpse of new material, before they closed the night with three of their most loved songs in Tender, For Tomorrow and The Universal which saw Damon on the barrier in and amongst the fans as the near 2 hour experience came to a close.
Tonight was truly special.
Review by Nathan Westley
Photos by Phoebe Fox
St Charles Square
There’s No Other Way
Young and Lovely
Coffee & TV
Out Of Time
End of a Century
To The End
This is a Low
Girls & Boys
22nd May 2023