22 May 2023
Stepping out of Colchester station you are presented with a giant Asda lurking off a roundabout, which is connected to another roundabout which, too, is connected to yet another roundabout. I did not stop to check whether that third roundabout is, indeed, hooked up to the first one as well, but I would not be surprised if it were so. All of which to say; Colchester is a town in England, similar in structure and form to so many others. Maybe a little prettier then most, though, with sprinklings of ancient walls and a river with lush greenery drooping over and into it; all of that sharing the space with Nando’s and H&M and Zizzi and countless other chains that wearily cling on across the country, sandwiched between empty resurants and shuttered shops.
I come from a town that could fit the description above almost exactly—other then it being a Tesco not an Asda, and there being an additional roundabout between it and the station—so I say this with love: It is the sort of place you only visit for a reason. Maybe you need to get your MOT sorted at the KwikFit, maybe it’s for that big shop. My reason would have absolutely infuriated my thirteen year old self.
I was exactly the right age to buy into the idea that some music was good and some music was bad. CDs were expensive, and you had to be sure—really sure—that what you were buying was worth the fifteen pounds or so you’d saved up. And of course, once you’d done so that decision was locked in. It was good, and you would revel in telling everyone of your refined taste and excellent spending choices. The conviction of a young teenager with a limited purchasing power is strong, and those definitive decisions would spread through a friend group like a virus. It was this landscape that Blur vs Oasis was born into.
I am unsure of the origins of why, or who was patient zero, but my friend group and I were very much on team Oasis. My first gig was Oasis, supported by The Verve, at Earls Court. My dad took me and we stood on the second barrier, not that far from the front, and I was awestruck. On the other hand Blur, deep in their Country House and Girls and Boys era, seemed somewhat silly and irrevant. It wasn’t until their self titled fifth album—which coincidently came out in the same year that Oasis’s infamously bloated third album ‘Be Here Now’—when I started properly paying attention. Blur revelled in trying new things, reinventing themselves time and time again, which was in stark contrast to the unfortunately diminishing returns from the boys from Manchester.
That reinvention continues with new song The Narcissist, from forthcoming album The Ballard of Darren, which got its live debut in a converted church in Colchester last Friday night. Nestled in the encore between the aforementioned Girls and Boys, and perennial favourite Tender, The Narcissist was a standout, which is impressive for a song that was less than twenty four hours old and surrounded by bonafide hits. It is reinvention by the way of introspection, the lyrics sounding world weary in a way that the best Blur songs do, the sound sounding fuller and more rounded then they have before, especially with Graham’s harmonies.
The rest of the set was a study in setlist selection, mixing in deep cuts, a smattering of new songs, and hit after hit without even getting to all of them. Yes, we were all a little older—the crowd were about as wild as you’d expect for an audience that fell in love with a band some thirty years ago—but it felt like Blur have found something, an indefinable spark, that they haven’t had for some time.Visit ➔