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Blur debut new songs and play the hits as they kick off comeback tour in Colchester

Blur are back! Here's everything that happened at last night's Colchester comeback show.

By Sophie Porter

Blur (Picture: Phoebe Fox)

Yes, it really, really, really is happening, to paraphrase one of Blur‘s most beloved songs. Last night saw the Britpop icons return to their hometown of Colchester to kick off a string of intimate warm-up shows ahead of their 2023 comeback tour – which is set to take in two shows at Wembley Stadium this summer.

While the 400 capacity show is dwarfed by Wembley’s casual 90,000, last night proved an equally special moment – coming just 24 hours after the surprise announcement of the band’s ninth studio album, The Ballad of Darren.

Speaking to press before the show, frontman Damon Albarn explained how the record found its genesis when he recorded demos on the last Gorillaz tour, having reasoned: “I’m not going to tell anyone, but it’d be great if we made a new record”.

“It was the only way I really could do this,” he explained of his secretive approach.

Commenting on the new album, bassist Alex James said: “What I’m most pleased about with the new record is just how relaxed it all sounds. It just sounds really comfortable”, adding to his bandmates: “all of you continue to surprise me”.

As for last night’s show itself, the group said the stripped back affair would provide an expectation of what the gargantuan Wembley shows might be like.

“We’ve taken it really back to basics” said James, “it’s just the four of us and Mike [Smith, their frequent live member]. That’s really how we wanted to play live as well, we wanted to imagine Wembley being us at our purest and most, kind of, uncomplicated.” Albarn added: “the original intention. Not one that you get carried away with once you become a big band, you know, with all the trimmings. So really, how we play tonight is kind of how we’ll play at Wembley.”

(Picture: Phoebe Fox)

The group kicked off proceedings at Colchester Arts Centre with a live debut of currently unreleased track, ‘St Charles Square’. James commented that whilst in writing and rehearsals for the new album, the track “was actually the moment when I just felt ‘oh my god, we’re back’”. They then proceeded to play through a set of old favourites including ‘Coffee + TV’ and ‘Parklife’, as well as a live debut of Modern Life is Rubbish deep cut, ‘Villa Rosie’. Albarn peppered the set with thanks for friends, the crew and their team, the Darren himself, and to the audience: “it’s been an absolute pleasure to share this warm up with you”.

The band closed the night with an encore featuring the live debut of brand new single ‘The Narcissist’, as well as fan favourite ‘Girls & Boys’ in which Albarn felt fully at home instigating a chant of ‘Es-sex’ before telling the crowd: “I want to see you bounce, you f*cking old c*nts”.

The encore also saw Blur provide a live debut for new single ‘The Narcissist’, before the show wrapped up with ‘Tender’, ‘For Tomorrow’ and ‘The Universal’.

Blur will now play Eastbourne Winter Gardens tomorrow (May 21), before two further warm-up dates in Wolverhampton and Newcastle.

Check out the whole setlist from last night’s show below.

Blur played:

St Charles Square (live debut)
There’s No Other Way
Trouble in the Message Centre
Chemical World
Trimm Trabb
Villa Rosie (live debut)
Coffee & TV
Out of Time
End of a Century
To the End
Song 2
This Is a Low

Girls & Boys
The Narcissist (live debut)
For Tomorrow
The Universal