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Britpop legends Blur confirm epic comeback gig at Wembley next year

BRITPOP legends Blur are reuniting for their first concert in eight years – 35 years after they formed.

Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree have confirmed my story from August that they will get back together to play Wembley Stadium on July 8.

Alex James jokes that he trademarked Britpop because 'a part of him dies every time he hears it'

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Alex James jokes that he trademarked Britpop because ‘a part of him dies every time he hears it’
The base player says he doesn't know which show will be their last. Pictured: Blur's concert in the Isle of Wight in 2015

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The base player says he doesn’t know which show will be their last. Pictured: Blur’s concert in the Isle of Wight in 2015Credit: Rex Features
The musician says Blur will be a part of him until he dies, and outlive all his bandmates

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The musician says Blur will be a part of him until he dies, and outlive all his bandmates

They want to celebrate the end of the “chaos of the past few years”.

It will be the first time the band — pictured above from their Best Of Blur album from 2000 — have performed at the iconic venue.

Damon said: “We really love playing our songs and thought it’s about time we did it again.”

Dave added: “After the chaos of the past few years it’s great to get back out to play some songs together on a summer’s day in London.”

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Tickets will go on sale at 10am on Friday and there are already hopes that high demand could lead to more dates.

They will be supported by rapper Slowthai, Mercury Prize nominee Self Esteem and electro-pop duo Jockstrap.

Graham said: “I’m really looking forward to playing with my Blur brothers again and revisiting all those great songs.

Blur live shows are always amazing for me. A nice guitar and an amp turned right up and loads of smiling faces.”

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Alex added: “There’s always something really special when the four of us get in a room. It’s nice to think that on July 8 that room will be Wembley Stadium.”

The band last reunited for 2015 album Magic Whip but the group — whose hits include Beetlebum, Song 2 and Country House — split soon after.

The break gave them the chance to pursue side projects — including frontman Damon’s Gorillaz.

Graham explained recently: “We all need to develop as musicians. You have to do it yourself, because no one’s going to encourage you to go off and do something outside of a band that is doing pretty well.

“But taking risks helps you grow as a musician and I’m really pleased we all did that.”

As one of the best bands in British music, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they stick around this time.

Not many bands like each other after this long… for us it’s still magical

Damon says: We really love playing our songs and thought it's time we did it again

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Damon says: We really love playing our songs and thought it’s time we did it againCredit: PA
Graham says: I'm really looking forward to playing with my Blur brothers again

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Graham says: I’m really looking forward to playing with my Blur brothers againCredit: PA
Dave says: After the chaos of the past few years it's great get back out to play together

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Dave says: After the chaos of the past few years it’s great get back out to play togetherCredit: PA
Alex James shares his thoughts on how Blur has completely changed his life

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Alex James shares his thoughts on how Blur has completely changed his life

By The Cool Bass Player

SO I guess we’re officially a long player — in fact, it’s just a smidge over 33⅓ years since Blur’s first rehearsal.

And the older I get the more of a fairytale that first rehearsal seems.
Because the very first time the four of us — three skint students with a pyjama-wearing computer programmer on drums — were in a room together, we wrote a song together.

I thought it was good.

I knew it was good.

Did I think we’d be playing that same song to an 80,000-strong crowd in Hyde Park on the closing day of the London Olympics in 2012 nearly 25 years later?

Actually, maybe.

I always truly believed that my first band, the one I played in at school were brilliant, too.

Not many other people did, though.

But if you’re going to succeed, you have to believe in what you’re doing, even when no one else does.

Blur’s record label thought we’d lost the plot when we recorded a defiantly British-sounding second album.

They made a point of coming to the studio to tell us exactly that.

I was halfway through recording a bassline at the time but it was clearly some kind of emergency.

“British Pop!” they said, “British Pop? You’re mad.”

And the A&R man looked sad and the boss man looked frightened.

They weren’t the only ones who didn’t get it.

The big launch show, the first performance of that second album, Modern Life Is Rubbish (still my favourite Blur record), didn’t get a single review in any news- paper or music magazine.

Kick off... Damon performing in 2009

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Kick off… Damon performing in 2009Credit: Andrew Barr

The media just weren’t interested.

But the crowd loved it.

What is now known as Britpop took everyone by surprise.

Including us, quite honestly.

We’d had reasonable success with our first album, Leisure, but nothing could have prepared us for the mayhem that ensued when Modern Life’s’ follow-up, Park- life, won four Brit awards in 1995, making the band a household name at a stroke.

And that was just the beginning.

A scrap with two brothers from Manchester (who I’ve since become quite fond of) put our next release, The Great Escape on to the main news agenda.

And London was swinging. It was suddenly home to not just the best bands and music, but the best restaurants, the best nightclubs, members’ clubs, craziest artists and chicest fashion designers on the planet.

It was the place to be: The undisputed global capital of cool
Which no doubt helped when our next record came out.

It was a back-to-basics approach recorded in Iceland that we just called Blur, but that was the one that really put us on the global stage.

And that was when things started to get really silly.

We were besieged by teenage girls at a radio station in Spain and had to be rescued by armed police.

Had to be barricaded in a shop to escape crowds of fans in Italy.

Then I was arrested on top of a sacred pyramid in Mexico City at dawn.

And smashed the piano at The Savoy Hotel.

And was given a free suite at Claridge’s.

Over the course of my twenties I got through £1million-worth of champagne and when I turned 30 I stayed up for a week to celebrate.

The band’s manager was sent to my house on the sixth day to try to make me go to bed but I was having far to much fun and went out to see Blondie and spent another night very much awake with a girl I met backstage there.

It was around then that I befriended Professor Colin Pillinger, the lead scientist on Beagle 2, the first British Mars mission.

Blur were due to be the first band to play on another planet when a tune we had written was due to be digitally beamed back through space from Isidis Planitia, a rocky plain located in an impact crater in Mars’s eastern hemisphere

This would signal to mission control that the spacecraft had arrived there safely.

But on Christmas Day 2003 Beagle 2 crash-landed on Mars. And pretty soon after that, inevitably, the band crash-landed too.

We’d been hard at it for 15 years at that point and all needed to do something else.

I married the prettiest girl I’d ever seen and sprazzed all the money I hadn’t spent on champagne on a knackered farm in The Cotswolds.

But that’s a whole other story and for a long time — the birth of my first four children, in fact — Blur was not a part of my life.

Not that I didn’t think about it. I thought about Damon and Graham and Dave every single day and I still do.

Blur will be a part of who I am until the day I die and will outlive all of us.

And it’s hard to describe how emotional I feel about us all being together making music again.

Bits

GRAHAM had mental health battles at the height of the band’s success.

He said: “I was drinking a lot because that knocked off the anxiety, but then I just couldn’t stop. Then I’d get a hangover which made me anxious all over again.”

I’m trying but I’ve been staring at the screen for five minutes and I’m actually starting to cry now so I’ll just move on and say that it’s tragic — tragic in the truest, most poetic sense of the word — that nearly all bands end up hating each other.

These beautiful things they made together end up tearing them apart.

The Smiths, New Order, pretty much all my favourite bands.

I think it’s because in all the best bands everyone in the band is vital and so everyone in the band thinks it is actually their band to some extent. Everyone jockeys for position, constantly.

Bits

Gorillaz are set to release the album Cracker Island on February 24 next year. It will include collaborations with Tame Impala, Stevie Nicks, Thundercat, Beck and more. Damon also recently revealed he is to work with Billie Eilish.

So even though Damon and Graham think they are cleverer than me, I don’t care because I play the low notes and the low notes have all the authority and they can both kiss my sweaty man boobs.

And I know that they are both reading this and that is exactly why I am writing it.

Being in a band for this long is a bit like having another family that’s even more messed up than your actual family.

Or try to imagine a marriage with four people in it and they’re all drunk and constantly moving forward at Mach 0.8 (265 metres per second) at 38,000ft while being cheered on by millions of people.

Graham was always my closest friend, and although on (countless) occasions he has been impossible, I have always found him impossible to dislike.

Damon I would follow to the ends of the earth, and that is definitely a fact because I have actually done it many times.

From Greenland via Africa to the Antipodes.

Dave Rowntree, on drums, was the one I was probably least close to when Blur was my full-time job.

I say “least close to” but you have to understand Dave and I were also pilot and co-pilot of the aeroplane we flew ourselves around the world on tour in.

Dave and I have been, for all these years, in fact, two halves of one thing — a kickass rhythm section.

We were all very, very close.

Always precarious

Dave is the one I speak to most these days. We talk every Tuesday morning at 9am.

It’s been 30-odd years and we all have very different lives now.

In fact, we always did have very different lives, but whenever we’re playing together everything else in the universe falls away and it’s just the four of us and the music and it’s exactly, exactly the same as it was at that first rehearsal and no one has changed at all, whatsoever in any way and it’s magical.

Not many bands continue to like each other after 30 years and even fewer continue to improve.

Our last album, The Magic Whip, recorded in five days flat in Hong Kong ten years ago, spawned one of our most popular songs ever — I had absolutely no idea about that at all but I’ve just been looking at streaming figures, trying to work out which songs we should play.
I guess we should play that one, then.

We’ve only done a handful of shows over the past 20 years and it has always been precarious. I never really know if any particular show will be the last.

It’s strange, but making music with these three men who I can safely call my brothers has always been either completely effortless or totally impossible.

Getting us all in the same room is always the impossible bit.

Whenever we all get in a room, really good things seem to happen.

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So, it’s a source of the greatest joy to me that we will all be in a room again on July 8 and that room will be Wembley Stadium and, Christ, I’m starting to cry again.

As my brother once said: “Woo Hoo!”




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