Rolling back the years with Damon
Damon Albarn is smiling. "Are you ready?" he asks, reaching for his microphone as his buddy, Alex James, lights up a cigarette. He's ready. There are 20,000 people watching – they're ready, too.
So, what better way to kick-start Blur's first Irish concert in four years than with a joyous run-through of 1994's Girls & Boys? That'll get us all going, for sure. And though Albarn, the band's denim-clad frontman, may have turned 45 this year, he's in fantastic shape.
As is James– everyone's favourite carefree bassist still sporting that wonderful trademark fringe of his.
A wee tumble on the floor says guitarist Graham Coxon (the grumpy one) might also be enjoying himself. But all eyes are on Albarn. Tonight, he'll throw a couple of litres of water over us. He'll literally bounce off the walls and shout through a megaphone, too. This is a proper workout for Albarn. Without him, Blur would just be another rock band. But they've only got one show in Britain and Ireland this year, so they're keen to make it count.
A blazing exhibition of the songs that made their career, Blur's on-going reunion still has plenty of gas left in the tank. True, there are a few lulls, and a couple of problems with the sound somewhat mar the opening half (as did the bar queues). But they're saving the best for nightfall.
To hell with Beetlebum and Popscene – Coffee & TV gives us something truly special to sing along to, drummer Dave Rowntree keeping a steady beat behind Coxon's only lead vocal of the night. And, hey, someone actually came dressed as a milk carton, too. An excellent number, it also signals a turnaround that sees the band pull out the gorgeous Tender, Britpop anthem Country House and a brilliant rendition of Parklife, complete with a guest appearance from actor Phil Daniels.
Indeed, there's a passion to Albarn and his band mates' playing which suggests that Blur will always be their one true love. After all, they've come a long way (Albarn recalls their first Dublin gig at the wedding of the late music journalist, Leo Finlay, in 1988).
Why stop now? Dripping with sweat, a Tricolour wrapped around his shoulders, Albarn and his boys sign out with a double whammy of The Universal (phenomenal) and Song 2 (always a hard-rocking pleasure).
Surely a new album is in the pipeline?