Video and gallery: Blur rock lucky few in Wolverhampton

It was the once in a lifetime gig - the like of which has never been seen in Wolverhampton before.

Video and gallery: Blur rock lucky few in Wolverhampton

Blur at Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton

Two hundred and fifty people jumping, dancing and embracing in unison for their Britpop heroes.

Blur are used to playing in front of 60,000 fans in Hyde Park or headlining Glastonbury Festival.
Yet it was a little arts centre in Wolverhampton more used to hosting plays, folk nights and dance shows that the band chose to mark the release of their first album - called The Magic Whip - in 12 years.

Newhampton Art Centre, in Whitmore Reans, has seen its funding from Wolverhampton City Council cut.

And the band, probably best known for their chart battles with Britpop rivals Oasis, were fired up to deliver a performance full of swagger to highlight the centre's plight.

Fans only had to make the short dash to the front of the comparatively tiny stage to be greeted by two giant ice cream cones, in a nod to the band's Hong Kong produced album, and a stack of amps almost to the ceiling.

The crowd roared as the chimes of music normally heard from an ice cream van rang out to mark the band's arrival on stage. 

Packed into an area barely bigger than a living room, backing singers squeezed in ready for the show.

The group, visibly buzzing from seeing fans almost surging on stage, opened their set with Go Out from the new album before Song 2 had the crowd in raptures.

Beer was thrown everywhere including on the band as frontman Damon Albarn snarled the lyrics in to the faces of the devoted crowd, which included comic Josh Widdicombe.

It was a sharp, confident display by the band buoyed by being back in a tiny venue similar to clubs like Dudley's JB's where their craft was honed in the early 1990s.

They played a set heavy on new releases keen to gauge reaction to tracks like Lonesome Street and I Broadcast.

While they are obviously etched with Blur's traditions and feel familiar to the ears, there is still that bite as guitarist Graham Coxon and Albarn's styles collide to great effect.

Mirrorball and I Thought I Was a Spaceman were among those to show Albarn's sometimes more eclectic style married with the Coxon's guitar skills at mixing heavy reverb with delicate finger work.

The joy was seeing these of mix of styles fuse well with the songs that made Blur's name.
It was a sign of confidence for a band which had moved in different directions by the release of their last record Think Tank in 2003.

Now laughing, joking and enjoying being on stage with their friends made for at times a gloriously causal show.

Albarn laughed emptying litres of water on fans in the front rows, helped one girl back onto a pal's shoulders after she reached out to her idol and culminated in the elated frontman cutting loose and jumping to crowd surf and create a moment the fans and venue will never forget.

The band even dragged up road member Stuart Lowbridge, who had urged them to do the gig at the art centre, to the stage to great cheers.

Even before Blur came back on for their rousing encore, the crowd started singing Girls and Boys, and when they obliged it topped off a great night.

Ending the show The Universal, Blur gave a performance that showed a band on form which was out of this world.

By Andrew Turton (Deputy Chief Reporter for the Express & Star)

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