Shropshire Star

Review: Brilliant Blur show us what Wolverhampton has been missing for eight years

At last!

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Blur at the refurbished Civic Hall

Wolverhampton has got its music mojo back again after Blur played the part of the opening party's guest of honour perfectly.

The reopening of the Civic Halls immediately reinvigorated the city centre as more than 3,500 Blur fans basked in the sun safe in the knowledge they had a ticket to the gig of the year.

Even the Railway Station had a fun atmosphere. The closer I got to the Civic Halls the busier bars and pubs were. Indie tunes blared outside what was the Little Civic, now the North Bar, as a phalanx of yellow coated security guards and door attendants marshalled the briskly moving queue.

Two giant metal detectors ensured no weapons could get inside and was a good example how the world has changed since the last concert in 2015, with an increase in knife crime.

The first impression of the refurbished hall is that of continuity, which obviously begged the question, what did they spend £40 million on?

Then I noticed a second balcony, I'm sure that wasn't there before, there were still huge queues for the bar, which had been changed but the side bars closed not long after 9pm. Naturally, the prices had gone up, £6.60 and there were snazzy glasses which required a £1 deposit.

The excitement was palpable but not raucaus, and when the band walked on the stage to the sounds of the theme from Tales of The Unexpected, there was joy, not pandemonium.

Damon enjoying himself

The gig was sold out but the standing section did not feel as packed as it used to, perhaps post Covid rules allow more space for revellers. After all, in the time it took to refurbish the Civic Halls a global pandemic came and went.

However, a ping on people's phones showed the reason why there was space at the back of the hall - a last batch of tickets went on sale minutes before Blur came on stage, which enraged the ticketless.

Inside, even the band remarked how tame the crowd was, Graham said: "It's not like a Wolverhampton crowd" and Damon seemed to be willing the audience to engage.

Perhaps we have forgotten how to let ourselves go?

The view from the top balcony at the revamped Halls venue

We need not have worried, by the time Beetlebum had finished the crowd were ready to let go, and Parklife lit the blue touch paper for the second half of the concert. The beautiful To The End was pitch perfect. As were Coffee and TV and Beetlebum.

Song 2 was an adrenaline shot it always is. This was technically a warm up gig, so they were not as tight as they will be but being so close to the stage at the Civic, you could really see they were enjoying themselves.

Wolverhampton is a sort of homecoming gig for Blur because their road crew of 30 years are all from here.

So important is the Black Country connection to the success of Blur, Damon has gone on the record saying the iconic line up only got back together due to the Black Country go-betweens.

Two Wolves roadies Darren and Stuart were presented to the crowd to cheers, gregarious Darren had plenty to say where as Stuart garnered one of the biggest cheers of the night by just saying "Wolves Ay We"

The band's forthcoming album is called The Ballad of Darren, inspired by the very same man, and if new track The Narcissist is anything to go by then Blur could recreate the magic when all four create new music.

Girls & Boys started an encore which included Tender, For Tomorrow and a joyous intermission with Damon playing a circus style piano as Graham went full Jimi Hendrix on guitar in front of a beaming Alex.

The gig ended with band and crowd entwined in an unforgettable rendition of The Universal.

And to think, someone had the bravery to say - "live music at the Civic by Summer 2023 - yes, it really, really could happen."