Blur lights up the marquee outside of the Fox Theatre in Pomona.
Blur lights up the marquee outside of the Fox Theatre in Pomona.
Tegenn Jeffery

A “Popscene” in Pomona: Catching Blur Before Coachella

An American and a British-American walk into a Blur concert, and Damon Albarn throws beer on them: what a joke set-up.

On April 10, the Britpop juggernauts Blur held a concert at the Fox Theatre in Pomona, Calif. Their most recent concert before this was in 2015 at the Hollywood Bowl. The Fox Theatre is a smaller venue—its max capacity is a mere 2,000 people—allowing the atmosphere to be all the more intimate and electric. 

Jockstrap, the alternative duo hailing from London, were mesmerizing openers—especially with their cathartic magnum opus, “Concrete Over Water.” The bass filled the theatre with a powerful rumble that could be heard and felt outside of the building. While Jockstrap’s rave-like energy differs from Blur’s music, the experimental sound recalls the innovative edge that has kept Blur relevant in mainstream and niche circles. 

From left to right: Graham Coxon on guitar, Dave Rowntree on drums, and Damon Albarn on vocals. (Sienna Schoales)

This is an assumption, but the setlist was chosen with the utmost care—it spanned the new with beloved classics, and deep-cuts were resurrected along with the live debut of their single “Fool’s Day,” a song accessible only by MP3 download or vinyl (of which only 1000 records were made). 

They opened with “St. Charles Square,” a new release from their latest album “The Ballad of Darren.” Despite not being overly popular, it was still a grand performance, setting the tone for the rest of the night: loud and wild. The group transitioned into the emphatic 1992 anthem, “Popscene,” and kept the momentum going with another 90s banger, “Trouble in the Message Centre.”

Graham Coxon on guitar and singing fronting the song “Coffee & TV” (Tegenn Jeffery)

Now it’s time to talk about the superstar of the night: Graham Coxon’s guitar playing. Starting with the next song “Beetlebum,” it was a cacophony of sheer bliss and desolation. This was only complemented by the band playing a devastating extended outro. Coxon’s immense playing continued as the group breathed life into fan favorites “Trimm Trabb” and “Death of a Party”—“Death of a Party” featured the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Bird Singers, a Native tribe from the land Coachella is currently held on, and who also performed the “Bird Song” along with the band.

This was followed by “Coffee & TV,” a mellow number featuring Coxon on guitar and as the lead singer. The audience was now on firm footing, and everyone joined in with the lyrics. Such involvement only gained momentum as the band began to play hit after hit: “Parklife,” where Albarn stopped the song to allow a fan to take over yelling phrases in a cockney accent, “Girls & Boys,” which featured some off-the-wall noises and dance moves from everyone, “Advert” with the readdition of a megaphone, and “Song 2,” undoubtedly the band’s most well-known song. For the second time that night, Albarn paused the song a few seconds into the intro, this time to tell a story about the sheer number of plagiarism cases Blur had been accused of specifically for “Song 2.”

With the bulk of the songs done, Blur played out to “This is a Low,” before returning for a five-song encore. “Fool’s Day” was done excellently live, although they restarted a little way into it due to a musical mess-up. Unperturbed, however, Blur stormed into their final act with “Tender,” featuring the Cahuilla Bird Singers once again. The concert was capped off with “The Narcissist,” the biggest hit to come from their latest album.

Blur featuring the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Bird Singers during their performance of “Tender.” (Sienna Schoales)

The final number of the show was an absolutely cataclysmically gorgeous rendition of their 1995 sensation “The Universal.” Tears were shed and we’re not afraid to admit that. “The Universal” means many things to different people: it’s a bittersweet anthem, a song looking toward a better future, and a devastating piece on young people hitching themselves to unattainable dreams in an increasingly apathetic world. Albarn introduced the song by talking about the amount of conflict and bigotry in the world—and while the world was in the same state as when the concert started, the song had an immense impact on everybody in the room. 

Albarn did not stick to his message later in the week at Coachella where he decided to yell at the audience.

Donate to Slick Magazine

Your donation will support the student journalists of Huntington Beach High School. Your contribution will allow us to cover our annual website hosting costs.
Thank you for supporting our program!

More to Discover
Donate to Slick Magazine