Page last updated at 04:30 GMT, Sunday, 14 June 2009 05:30 UK

Blur triumph in tiny comeback gig

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Blur at East Anglian Railway Museum
Blur played their first reunion show for friends, family and competition winners

Blur have begun their comeback at the scene of their first ever concert.

The Britpop heroes played for around 150 people in a goods shed at the East Anglian Railway Museum, where they launched their careers in 1988.

For Saturday's gig, their first show for nine years, they used a vintage carriage as a dressing room and played surrounded by station memorabilia.

They will now go on tour, taking in headline slots at Hyde Park, Glastonbury and T in the Park.

Read the full gig review below:

As the opening chords to Parklife kick in, Damon Albarn bounces like a boxer coming out of retirement for one last title fight.

Blur at East Anglian Railway Museum
Damon Albarn (right) and Graham Coxon have reconciled after falling out

He's no longer the cheeky chappy who jumped about in the Parklife video back in the band's Britpop heyday.

But he and his bandmates are up for the fight.

It's almost a decade since these four musicians performed together, and during that time they have gone their very different ways (monkey operas, cheese-making and politics, to name a few).

They seem to be friends again, and are clearly relishing the rediscovery of their old songs, which still sound great.

In a couple of weeks, they will be playing those songs for tens of thousands of fans at huge outdoor shows.

But the first warm-up show is different. It is tiny by comparison, and is special because it is a return to the first place they ever played. It is also very odd as gig venues go.

A vintage train carriage, which doubles up as their dressing room, is next to the stage, along with an open wagon where the band's families sit.

Old-fashioned signs from Clacton-on-Sea and Southend stations adorn the walls, while from the ceiling we are directed to the 'Continental ticket office' and 'Foreign passports'.

When they get going, it takes a few numbers for the band to be at ease playing as Blur again - but not long.

Blur at East Anglian Railway Museum
Albarn took part in a spot of stage-diving

Albarn is the focus, as ever - the prize fighter, the jester, the sneering punk and the sensitive thinker, depending on the mood of the song.

He switches between jumping manically, staring pensively and eyeballing the crowd menacingly as the band move from indie anthems to subtle tearjerkers to scuzzy soul-cleansers.

There is no barrier between the crowd and the stage, no line of security, so when Albarn dives off stage, he's instantly carried aloft by outstretched arms.

Bassist Alex James does his best to steal some of the limelight, standing on his monitor speakers and shaking his floppy fringe, with a cigarette balanced between his lips.

While Albarn is covered in sweat, James looks like he has stepped straight out of a Timotei commercial. He is still the coolest man in rock.

All the bases are covered in the 130-minute set as the band burn through Girls and Boys, There's No Other Way, Beetlebum, Coffee and TV, Tender and Country House, to huge receptions from the compact crowd.

Lighter singles like Charmless Man become heavier, threatening to blow off the shed's roof, which this gig is raising money to repair.

Blur at East Anglian Railway Museum
The band have not decided whether they will write new material

Parklife gets 150 arms in the air, and Albarn puts his arm around guitarist Graham Coxon as they join together for the final chorus of End Of A Century.

Coxon asks for a show of hands to choose between Essex Dogs and Sing - being an Essex band playing to an Essex crowd, he concludes: "Essex Dogs has it."

And just as you start thinking there can't be many songs left that have stood the test of time, they pull out To the End, Song 2 - which makes the place erupt - and For Tomorrow.

Albarn uses a British Rail clock above the crowd to work out how many songs are left before he has to let fans go and get the last train from the adjacent station.

"We've got six minutes before the last train goes," he says, before the band finish with the poignant The Universal.

It's hard to think of a post-Britpop band who can pluck at the same range of emotions as Blur, and whose tunes are underpinned by similarly astute songwriting and storytelling.

They may reclaim the heavyweight crown after all, and there is also now the tantalising prospect of new material.

The smiles between Coxon and Albarn suggest their friendship might really be back on track, and it's difficult to imagine two such prolific musicians not being tempted to have a go at writing new songs.

For now, their classic songs are ripe for being revisited and their sound and presence will easily fill the fields where they will play this summer.

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