Blur on comeback trail

COLCHESTER'S most famous sons returned to their roots at the weekend and performed an astounding concert in a converted Essex railway goods shed.

Roddy Ashworth

COLCHESTER'S most famous sons returned to their roots at the weekend and performed an astounding concert in a converted Essex railway goods shed.

Recently-reformed rock band Blur combined their first warm-up gig with an emotional homecoming in Chappel, where they played to an intimate audience made up of their friends, their parents, their children, their nephews and nieces and a lucky handful of fans.

The reunited group, who performed their first ever gig as Seymour at the same venue 21 years earlier, had the small crowd at the East Anglian Railway Museum po-going and flailing from the opening number.

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Only 150 tickets had been made available for the concert, the profit from which will be split between local causes - the railway museum itself and the nearby Aldham Village Hall Restoration Project.

But with some being distributed through a raffle - for which tickets cost �5 - it is hoped many thousands of pounds have been raised.

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It was shortly after 8pm on Saturday when the assembled fans were ushered into the shed by Damon Albarn, the band's enigmatic frontman.

“If you could make your way into the hall,” Damon said to the audience after the band left their changing room - a former railway carriage - and made their way to the stage, above which hung a railway sign for Harold Wood.

Within seconds, Blur launched into a rousing opener, the band's first ever single, She's So High.

They went on to rip through a 28-song setlist, including seminal 1990's hits Girls and Boys, Park Life and - with guitarist Graham Coxon on lead vocals - Coffee and TV.

The band gave in to adoring pressure from the audience to play the rarely-performed Essex Dogs, in honour of the county.

The concert took many in the audience back to the heady Colchester music scene of 20 years ago, when bands with names such as Penny Arcade, Idle Vice and The Mysterie Boys played venues like Fagin's Den, the Institute, the Arts Centre and Essex University.

Mick Terry, 40, an old friend of guitarist Graham Coxon, said; “It was like going back in time. The nearest thing I can compare it to was when they played the Hacienda in Manchester in 1990 - they were tight, they had a really electric presence and they were clearly enjoying it. It was also very hot.

“The only difference was that here they had a vastly improved set list, with all the stuff they went on to do later as well.”

Nick Lumb, who lives in Wivenhoe and studied with Graham in the 1980s, said: “It was really good. Stunning. Seeing them together again was amazing - they played brilliantly.”

Blur are now set to play warm-ups in Southend, Newcastle, Wolverhampton and London before their summer comeback concerts at Hyde Park, the m.e.n. Arena and Glastonbury.

Click here to watch Blur perform Coffee and TV at their comeback gig

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